THE UNIVERSITY OF
Cambridge an 800th Anniversary Portrait
Editor P ETER PAGNAMENTA
Third Millennium Publishing
The University of Cambridge: An 800th Anniversary Portrait
In one respect this book is the culmination of ten years of
Managing Editor: Catharine Walston Editorial Assistant: Fred Bosanquet Design: Matthew Wilson and Susan Pugsley Production: Bonnie Murray Project Manager: Christopher Fagg
particularly rewarding publishing with individual Cambridge colleges – beginning with my own, Clare. Using both words and pictures we have sought to communicate how such communities, each with its own unique character and ethos, can draw strength from the values and traditions of the past, while at the same time being totally engaged with the present. What we have found to date to be true of Clare, Corpus Christi, Girton, Trinity Hall, St John’s, Pembroke and Gonville & Caius is of course true of the University of
Copyright © The University of Cambridge and Third Millennium Publishing Limited Individual authors retain copyright in their own contributions. First published in 2008 by Third Millennium Publishing Limited, a subsidiary of Third Millennium Information Limited
publishing company to provide this portrait of a venerable
2–5 Benjamin Street, London United Kingdom, EC1M 5QL www.tmiltd.com
university in its eight hundredth year.
ISBN: 978 1 903942 65 9
Cambridge itself. It has been a great privilege for a youthful
Julian Platt Title page: King’s Parade from Gonville & Caius. Photograph by Dan White, 2007. Front endpapers: From Senate House Hill on Degree Day Morning, 1863, by Robert Farren (see page 292). Rear endpapers: Degree Day 2007. Photograph by Hiroshi Shimura. Above: Old Court, Peterhouse. Photograph by Hiroshi Shimura.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher Printed by Cambridge University Press
hen we were embarking on this book, some people expressed doubt as to whether it would be possible at all. I was warned that this would be a difficult, even a dangerous task. How could a book, with a finite number of pages, possibly meet all the expectations that different readers would have for it, depending on their standpoint in the University today or their own particular experience of it in the past? So a few explanations, even disclaimers, are needed. This is not a linear history of the whole 800 years, or an encyclopaedic guide to every part of Cambridge activity. As the subtitle suggests, we have tried to produce a wide-angled picture of the University coming up to the 800th anniversary in 2009, showing at least the range of teaching and research, and giving an impression of extracurricular life, using many voices. There are inevitable omissions. Though some of the early history is here too, the main stress is on the last 60 years in which so much has changed so fast, and on the present day. Among the several strands that make up the book, the first is the personal recollections of alumni, which are woven throughout. The soliciting of first hand testimony is a hit or miss process, and there are imbalances in the way different generations respond. Many are suspicious of these general exhortations. So we need to thank all who overcame their inhibitions, and followed so well the stern guidelines requesting a sharp focus. It has been possible to use only a portion of what was received, and contributions have been edited. The second strand comes with the illustrations. As well as the many picture sources credited separately, we owe thanks to a talented list of photographers who are graduates or have strong Cambridge connections, and who allowed us to use their work. They include Antony Barrington Brown, Christopher Angeloglou, Phillip Brown,
David Thomas, Hiroshi Shimura, Ihsan Aslam and Michael Derringer. We should also thank the Varsity cartoonists over the years, including the most recent, Anna Trench. Commissioned articles provide the third strand. I am grateful to all who agreed to write about complex subjects in a very limited number of words, and submitted to deadlines that some academics regarded as brutal, so gracefully and effectively. I owe a special and personal debt to two contributors in particular. Apart from writing their own pieces, Professor Malcolm Longair and Professor Ron Laskey gave invaluable help with the assembly of the sections that deal with the physical sciences and technology, and with the biological and medical sciences. While doing this they found themselves drawn into the editorial grind more deeply than they might have wished. If this resulted in a temporary loss to science, it was our gain. I am also grateful to our Advisory Committee, who gave wise guidance, understood the constraints, and were supportive throughout. We have adopted a rather loose running order, and the book is intended to work as an anthology, so that research is treated next to poetry and spiritual life comes before sport. To the reader who complains that this kaleidoscopic view is confusing, one response would have to be that the University itself has never been logically organized, and its many facets, layers, overlaps, and dazzling fragments form its essential character and identity. But to help those who would have liked a more rigorous plan, the design incorporates a gentle colour key, which may allow readers with specific interests to find their way around more easily. A full list of acknowledgements and thanks appears at the end of the book.
Contents Editor’s Note
9 Undergraduate Life
Advisory Committee Foreword C HANCELLOR , HRH T HE D UKE O F E DINBURGH
p12 10 Arts and Humanities
‘The real quest is not for knowledge, but for understanding’– G ORDON J OHNSON
2 Discovering the Distant Fen
Impressions and perspectives N JABULO N DEBELE , B ELA B OLLOBAS , B ILL J ANEWAY, H ENRY L OUIS G ATES , A NITA D ESAI , VAHNI C APILDEO , G UOHA C HEN
What happened in 1209? – C HRISTOPHER B ROOKE
4 Opening the Doors
Who comes to Cambridge? – R AY J OBLING Enabling Mission – A NIL S EAL
5 Raising Standards, Widening Choices
6 Physical Sciences and Technology
7 Our Science Future
8 The Genius of Scale Evolution of the colleges – M ARILYN S TRATHERN
Studying the human world – G EOFFREY H AWTHORN Politics – D AVID R UNCIMAN Economics – G EOFFREY H ARCOURT Business – S ANDRA D AWSON Law – D AVID F ELDMAN
14 Student Politics
Keeping an edge – M ARTIN R EES
A story of explosive growth – W ILLIAM B ROWN CRASSH: a humanities initiative – M ARY J ACOBUS
13 Social Sciences
Probing new frontiers – M ALCOLM L ONGAIR Physics and astronomy – M ALCOLM L ONGAIR Mathematics – M ARTIN H YLAND Engineering – A NN D OWLING Computing – P ETER R OBINSON Chemistry – J EREMY S ANDERS
Alumni contributors including: The gentle muse – L EO M ELLOR The life and disappearance of Granta – J OHN S IMPSON Varsity – M ARK W EATHERALL
Changes in teaching and curriculum – M ELVEENA M CKENDRICK
From Sophocles to semiotics – M ARY B EARD History – Q UENTIN S KINNER English – S TEFAN C OLLINI Philosophy – S IMON B LACKBURN Archaeology – G RAEME B ARKER Architecture – D IANE H AIGH
11 Undergraduate Writing 3 800 Years
Myth and reality Alumni contributors including: VALERIE G ROVE , S EBASTIAN FAULKS , J O C HOLMONDLEY, A LAIN DE B OTTON ,J UDITH W HITELY, J ON S WAINE , O LIVER D UFF ‘The Cambridge novel’ – J ONATHAN S ALE
Radicalism and activism – T IM S TANLEY Union Society – S TEPHEN PARKINSON Alumni contributors including: M ARTIN J ACQUES , S IMON H OGGART, M ATTHEW PARRIS , C HARLES C LARKE , C HRIS S MITH , K ARAN T HAPAR , C LARE B ALDING
15 University Library
Extending access in a digital age – P ETER F OX
16 Cambridge University Press
J EREMY M YNOTT
17 The Inheritance
Fitzwilliam's munificent bequest – D UNCAN R OBINSON Classical collections – PAUL C ARTLEDGE Kettle’s Yard – M ICHAEL H ARRISON Science museums – L IBA TAUB University buildings before 1900 – D EBORAH H OWARD
18 New Architecture
Unravelling the secrets of life – R ON L ASKEY AND J EAN T HOMAS Clinical medicine – PATRICK S ISSONS , T IM C OX Neuroscience – C HRISTINE H OLT AND R OGER K EYNES Animal behaviour – N ICHOLAS D AVIES Plant sciences – J OHN G RAY AND P ETER G RUBB
20 ‘The Cambridge Phenomenon’
Modern management in a medieval framework – M ARTIN D AUNTON Income and spending – T ONY M INSON Benefactors and financial support – D AVID WALKER
24 Undergraduate Drama
Talent and temerity – B ENEDICT N IGHTINGALE Footlights – D ANIEL M ORGENSTERN Alumni contributors including: P ETER H ALL , N ICHOLAS H YTNER , J OSIE R OURKE , H UGH D ENNIS , B EN M ILLER
Court, campus and city – P ETER C AROLIN
19 Biological and Medical Sciences
23 Running the University
Alumni contributors including: C HRISTOPHER H OGWOOD , J OHN E LIOT G ARDINER , R UTH B ARRETT
26 Cambridge and the World
A NNE L ONSDALE
27 Final Word
‘Remaining ferociously engaged’ – V ICE -C HANCELLOR , A LISON R ICHARD
Scientists and venture capital – R ICHARD F RIEND
Appendices: 21 Spiritual Life
Faith resurgent – D AVID F. F ORD Muslim Cambridge – T IM W INTER Science and religion – J OHN P OLKINGHORNE
22 University Sport A question of balance – S OPHIE P ICKFORD Alumni contributors including: Rowing – P ETER C ONVEY Rugby – M ARK B AILEY Cricket – D EREK P RINGLE Football – S TEVE T ONGUE
Timeline Nobel Prizes Name Index Subscribers
p334 p336 p339
Cambridge through the seasons: Spring p10, Summer p86, Autumn p222, and Winter p288. Notes: The design incorporates a colour code giving a separate tint to different Cambridge themes and focuses: History, inheritance and overview sections have a blue tab University policy and administration are tabbed with grey Academic and research chapters are marked with orange Undergraduate life and extra-curricular sections are in green. Dates shown after alumni contributions mark years of matriculation, or for graduates and researchers, the date of arrival in Cambridge.
‘The real quest is not for knowledge, but for understanding…’ G ORDON J OHNSON
e mark the passing of 800 years, and that is indeed a remarkable span for any institution. But history is never an even-flowing stream, and the most remarkable thing about modern Cambridge has been its enormous growth over the past halfcentury. Since I came up as an undergraduate in 1961 the student population has more than doubled (from just under 9,000 to just over 18,000), graduate students now constitute about a third of the whole; just as notable, around half of all students are now women. More students have meant more teachers, and, even more significantly, more scholars devoted solely to research: every category has more than doubled in numbers. This huge increase has been partly absorbed by an expansion of the colleges: they all have more students and more Fellows than they did 50 years ago; and, since 1954, no fewer than 11 of the 31 colleges are either brand new foundations, such as New Hall, Churchill, Darwin, Wolfson, Clare Hall, Lucy Cavendish and Robinson, or have been conjured up as new creations from existing but quite different bodies, like Homerton, Hughes Hall, Fitzwilliam and St Edmund’s. From being a university primarily driven by undergraduate education, Cambridge’s reputation is now overwhelmingly tied to its research achievements, which can be simply represented by the fact that more than three-quarters of its current annual income is devoted to research. This has brought not just new laboratories but new buildings to house whole faculties and departments: in the mid-20th century few faculties (and those mainly in the sciences) had a physical manifestation beyond, perhaps, a library and a couple of administrative offices. As late as the 1960s, the History Faculty existed as the Seeley Library (then in the Cockerell Building beside the Senate House, now the Caius College Library) and a tiny bolt-hole in Green Street presided over by the formidable Miss Box. Now it has a remarkable (if controversial) building on the Sidgwick Site, surrounded by buildings for Law, Music, Divinity, English, Philosophy, Criminology, Classics, Modern and Medieval Languages, and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
Physically, the University has burst out of the old town centre: the University Library, Selwyn and Newnham no longer form outposts on the western frontier, since beyond and between them lie new colleges and scientific departments relocated to West Cambridge from old places in the city centre; Peterhouse, Engineering and Chemistry no longer stand sentinel to the south, since distant on the road to Colchester lies Addenbrooke’s Hospital (itself moved from Trumpington Street) with the Clinical School and a vast array of bio-scientific research laboratories and institutes. Growth on this scale, in so few decades, is unprecedented in the long history of the University. It has not been without its discomforts; we should not underestimate the ferocity of battles fought to get to where we are. It is simply not true, though it is often alleged, that University politics are vicious because little is at stake. It is a highly controversial thing to decide what (and who) to teach, and which frontier of knowledge to advance upon next and where to make the investments that might support these decisions; it is hard also to define our role in the affairs of the state and its many agencies, or our relation
Left: The new Centre for Mathematical Studies on Wilberforce Road.
Previous pages: Spring on the Backs. Photograph by Hiroshi Shimura.
Right: Magdalene bridge at 9am.
to business and industry, to alumni and other well-meaning friends; and it is difficult to determine just where to strike the bargains that bring in the resources needed for the Universityâ€™s work. It is because the University is so relevant and important to our societyâ€™s well-being that it is the focus of so much attention, and a place of real struggle for power and influence. However, Cambridge has prospered and stands amongst the foremost universities of the world. Despite the change of scale, Cambridge has retained the quality of a great university: a place where enquiry is encouraged and tested and where critical thought is the order of the day. The University brings together a wide range of disciplines and, loosely, pursues them all. There has been no plan to catch them up in some great common, coherent and directed research project that would solve the problems of the age, though some of what is learnt here is directly relevant to work beyond the University, and some of what is discovered has immediate practical application. For all of its size, Cambridge is still a collection of colleges and departments, separate and overlapping disciplines. The parish government is often criticized for being a bit anarchic, and this at times frustrates some
within and annoys authorities without. But it remains fundamentally a place of individual scholarly creativity and clear educational purpose. Cambridge attracts the best students and academics because they find the University and the colleges stimulating and enjoyable places in which to live and work. The students are thrown in with similarly able minds, learning as much from each other as from their teachers; the good senior academics know better than to be too hierarchical or to cut themselves off from intellectual criticism and debate. We so easily believe that what we spend our waking hours thinking about must somehow be an advance on what is known or understood already. Earlier generations have thought the same. They were sure that they were right as well. In the sciences there is often agreed progress, but even here there will be conflicting ideas and uncertainties. One generation dismisses another: not even Erasmus or Newton, Darwin or Keynes stand unscathed by the passage of time; nor can we be but humbled, especially in our day when so much information is so easily accessible, by the vast store of knowledge which we can approach but never really control. Our library and museum collections bring us into contact with many lives lived in the past. They serve as symbols of the
continuity of learning, or the diversity of views, of an obligation to wrestle with fact and argument, to come to our own conclusions, and in turn to be accountable for our findings. The real quest is not for knowledge, but for understanding. It is remarkable that Cambridge should have had a University for so long. We take it for granted. We assume that Cambridge has always been an important centre of learning, and that what has been will be forever. But history tells us otherwise. The University and the colleges have a chequered past. More often than not, however, teachers and students here have been conscientious and followed their vocation. They have sought out and promoted knowledge, and been the guardians of much that is good in our culture. They have remained close to the interests and needs of our society at large, asking hard questions, challenging established ways of thinking, and incorporating new understanding in what is taught and learned. We celebrate a great history; but we can look forward to a future only by knowing what it is that makes the genius of the place. Michael Derringer
Gordon Johnson is President of Wolfson College and Provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust.
Above: Panorama from the tower of the University Library, May 2008.
Discovering the Distant Fen
Impressions and perspectives N JABULO N DEBELE , B ELA B OLLOBAS , B ILL J ANEWAY, H ENRY L OUIS G ATES , A NITA D ESAI , VAHNI C APILDEO , G UOHUA C HEN
Left: Byron’s pool, now a city nature reserve, where not only Byron but Rupert Brooke and Virginia Woolf would swim in the Cam.
car, put his coat and case in it, and then drive away with a woman who had been waiting for him. The ordinariness of greatness! I remember that Joseph Needham, Master of Caius College invited us to a reception at his college. As the evening wore on I saw him sit on the floor in front of Mpho, my wife, for a chat. The ordinariness of legend! I remember meeting Wole Soyinka at the Churchill College bar for a drink. He too was in residence there. Many years later I was to preside over a graduation ceremony where, on behalf of the University of Cape Town, I conferred an honorary doctorate on him. I remember Frank Kermode’s elegant lectures; Colin McCabe’s demanding lectures on James Joyce; and Iain Wright’s probing tutorials on the Russian novel. I remember that Henry Louis ‘Skip’ Gates and I attended the same lectures on film theory by Stephen Heath. I loved being at Cambridge, and savoured the joy of tribal solidarity against Oxford. What if I had gone to Oxford? Could it have been the other way round? I remember meal time at Churchill College and how I wished there was more noise and laughter in the dining hall. I remember being a member of the Gods at Churchill College and that I
“Cambridge, wet, cold, abstract, formal as it is, is an excellent place to write, read and work.” Sylvia Plath, writing to her mother, 1956, from Letters Home, 1975
remember the Swiss Air DC-10 flight from Johannesburg to Zurich on an October evening in 1973: my first intercontinental flight. I was on my way to Cambridge. Going to Cambridge sealed my love for Lesotho. Its government granted me a passport to travel to the UK, offering tremendous opportunities for me not possible in my oppressed country: South Africa. I remember the thrill of landing at Heathrow from Zurich. The immigration official asked what I was coming to do in the UK. I was going to study at Cambridge, I said. He said ‘how wonderful!’. I remember feeling good. Although this was my first visit to the United Kingdom, I had nevertheless been there countless times before in my imagination, through British novels, drama, music, film and colonialism. At Cambridge, I fell in love immediately with the prolonged greyness of the Michaelmas term with its short days and long nights. I soon bought a bicycle, and loved cycling in crowds, weaving my way through traffic. I would take in all of Cambridge on my bike. I remember the small world of the Wolfson flats for married students at Churchill College: Americans, Canadians, Nigerians, Tanzanians, Indians, South Americans, Australians, the Irish, the British, and of course, South Africans from Lesotho. The British summers came with their long days that allowed our son and other ‘third world’ children at the Wolfson flats to play outside long after their British friends had been sent to bed. I remember cycling my son to nursery school, and how motorists on Huntingdon Road smiled strangely at me as they passed. Then I realised they were amused by my three-year-old son, who, in his seat behind me, imitated every signal I made with my arms. What makes for a great university? It must be the community of scholars who attract others from all over the world to learn from them. There he was, George Steiner, coming out of his room one staircase below mine. He greeted me warmly. I was too awed to ask him many questions. I remember coming out of Raymond Williams’s lecture at the Sidgwick Centre and then seeing him open the boot of his
The Prospect of Cambridge from the West, 1688, by David Loggan. University Library, Cambridge.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, letter to his brother George, 1791
Right: View of the city centre from Cherry Hinton.
acted in Tim Cribbs’s production of The Splendour and Death of Joaquin Murieta by Pablo Neruda. And then I was in the second division soccer team of Churchill College. We won and we lost. I remember cycling to the Cambridge Railway station just to look at trains. I remember browsing at Heffers; walking at the university Botanic Garden; marvelling at the American Cemetery. I loved being on Burrell’s Walk alongside the UL, on my way to just about anywhere. I remember seeing my name on the notice board on King’s Parade. I had passed! But why was it another BA and not an MA? Later the BA became an MA. The ways of Cambridge! I remember that at Cambridge I became an international citizen, and suddenly felt light-years away from the parochial oppressiveness of South Africa. When would my country be part of the world? It now is. Njabulo Ndebele is a novelist and was Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Cape Town.
“Cambridge is a damp place – the very palace of the winds: so without very great care one is sure to have a violent cold. I am not however certain, that I do not owe my Rheumatism to the dampness of my rooms. Opium never used to have disagreeable effects on me – but it has upon many.”
Impressions and perspectives / 19
n 1 October 1963 I arrived in Cambridge from communist Hungary. I was 20, and that autumn I should have started my third year of undergraduate studies in mathematics in Budapest. Up to then I had lived all my life in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a dictatorship, so being in Cambridge was an exhilarating experience beyond my imagination. I was overwhelmed by the magnificent and well kept buildings, the amazing lawns and gardens, the wealth of the country, the quaint customs, and the polite and disciplined people in the streets. I was also greatly relieved that – at least to my untutored eyes – England was alive and well: after all, in my communist homeland it was hammered into us that capitalism had run out of steam and was about to collapse. I was even more surprised to see how well Cambridge undergraduates lived: many had money of their own, went to stay with friends in the country and took their girlfriends to restaurants; some owned cars and spent their holidays abroad; many were looking forward to well-paid jobs in the City. The world was their oyster. I was amazed that the porters treated the undergraduates with respect, as if they were ‘adults’: in Budapest an undergraduate was much closer to a child than to a grown-up. That I ever managed to get to Cambridge was a miracle. I had known of Cambridge as an unattainable place, a place one can long for but cannot hope to reach. For me, Cambridge’s reputation rested on Newton, Cayley, Maxwell, Russell, Whitehead and the legendary Hardy-Littlewood partnership; strangely, it never occurred to me that Littlewood might still be alive. Although I was considered to be the best student in Budapest, had already written a joint paper with the globetrotting legendary mathematician Paul Erdös, and was not asking for any financial assistance from the Hungarian authorities, the drawn-
What happened in 1209? C HRISTOPHER B ROOKE
he highly educated clerical elite of the 12th century travelled far in search of good masters. From all over Christendom – and especially from Britain and western Europe – they went to Bologna to study law and to Paris to study theology. As the 12th century turned into the 13th, they increased very rapidly in numbers and sought learning nearer home: some of the leading masters of the day – that is, academic teachers with university degrees – united to form provincial universities at Oxford and Cambridge. For universities to grow and flourish – then as now – a variety of contradictory demands had to be met. The first universities north of the Alps were formed by groups of masters. They needed fees and patronage; they needed towns with ample lodgings for their students; they needed books; above all they needed the recognition and support of the authorities of the Church, and they needed peace and quiet and independence. Then, as now, the last was the most difficult to secure. There had been schools in Oxford for much of the 12th century, and towards the end of the century they grew into a corporation of masters and apprentice students, a universitas or university. But in the early 13th century life was anything but peaceful. Pope Innocent III and King John were at loggerheads over the appointment of Cardinal Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1208 the pope laid an interdict on England and all the churches were closed; for six years they were silent, and in 1209 King John was excommunicated. Also in 1209 a serious riot broke out in Oxford; the schools were closed and masters and students dispersed. The St Albans monk Roger of Wendover (not the most reliable of chroniclers, but a contemporary with access to good information) says that some of the masters moved to Cambridge. A few years later, king and pope were reconciled (1214) and Stephen Langton played a leading role in bringing John and the barons together to agree to Magna Carta (1215). By the 1220s the tiny, young university of Cambridge had a chancellor; in the 1230s its privileges were confirmed by King Henry III and Pope Gregory IX. Left: The Saxon tower of St Bene’t’s Church, which was built in 1025. The oldest extant building in Cambridge, St Bene’t’s served as the college chapel to Corpus Christi College from the 14th to the 16th centuries. The rough stonework of the tower is original, and would have been there in 1209 when the first masters arrived.
Thus it seems likely – one cannot say more – that the arrival of Oxford masters in Cambridge in 1209 marked the beginning of the University, and that they came from the environs of St Mary’s Church in Oxford to St Mary the Great in Cambridge. But why did they come to Cambridge? Oxford was in the vast diocese of Lincoln, almost as remote from the authority of bishop and cathedral as it could be. Cambridge was in the tiny diocese of Ely, barely far enough from Ely not to be under the bishop’s eye. But there was no cathedral chancellor in the monastic chapter at Ely to claim authority over the university chancellor in Cambridge; and in 1209 there was no bishop at Ely. Below: Charter of Edward I, 1291/2, confirming the privileges of the University. The illuminated initial shows the king presenting the charter to a Doctor of Canon Law, a Doctor of Civil Law and two kneeling Doctors of Theology. Their degrees can be deduced from their academical dress. (University Archives, Luard 7*)
34 / 800 Years
Early Statutes The earliest recorded copy of the statutes of the University, preserved, not in Cambridge, but in Rome, is the Angelica manuscript (right). These are among the earliest, if not the earliest statutes to survive of any university in Europe, depending on whether they can be described as a complete corpus of statutes or just a selection. The thirteen chapters are as follows:
1. Chancellor, elected by Masters, may appoint deputy, who must be approved by the Masters, if he is to be absent for more than a short time. Shall hear all suits of scholars, unless the atrocity of the offence requires the concurrence of the Masters. Must execute the Mastersâ€™ sentences when brought to his attention. May not make new statutes without consent of the Masters. 2. Qualifications and duties of Masters, including regulations for disputations. 3. Dates for the beginnings and endings of terms. 4. All Masters obliged to attend admission of new Masters, and on days when university business is to be discussed, and to abstain from disputations on such days. 5. Academical dress. 6. Mastersâ€™ court: to hear actions, with some cases, e.g. rents, excluded. 7. Office of rectors [proctors]: duties are, with burgesses, to assess rents, ensure fair prices for victuals, order times of lectures, disputations, obits, etc., maintain discipline. 8. Office of bedells: to order the schools, serve writs, announce times of lectures, etc., attend ceremonies. 9. Sureties to be given in jurisdictional cases, to attend the outcome. 10. More on judicial proceedings. 11. Rights of scholars and penalties for delinquency. 12. Hostels and rents. 13. Exequies. Some of these statutes appear also in the earliest Proctorsâ€™ Books, and indicate, for example, that the Chancellor is to be elected annually. The general tenor shows that the university was essentially governed by the Regent Masters, i.e. those who, having graduated MA, were obliged not only to teach but to concern themselves with the business of the University. (Biblioteca Angelica, Rome, MS 401, fol. 54r)
What happened in 1209? / 35
These Elizabethan statutes (below) remained in force until the middle of the 19th century. They mark a decline in the power of the Regent Masters, as exemplified in the Angelica MS (opposite) and an increase in the powers of the Heads of Houses (non-existent, of course, in 1250, as the first college, Peterhouse, was not founded until 1284). Elizabeth has executed her best signature at the top of the page, and at the bottom William Cecil, Chancellor of the University, has inserted in his own hand the place and the date of signing: Reading, 26 September 1570. (Cambridge University Archives: Luard 187)
In earlier centuries statutes had mostly been enacted piecemeal. Although a new code had been promulgated in the reign of Edward VI, this was doomed to be soon superseded. Elizabeth’s statutes turned the ‘Caput Senatus’, first instituted late in the 14th century and appointed on an ad hoc basis, into a body annually appointed. The Caput had originally comprised the Vice-Chancellor, a representative Doctor in each of the Faculties of Divinity, Law and Medicine, a Doctor from one of the religious houses and one representative each of the Regent and Non-Regent Houses. (Non-Regents were persons who had fulfilled their obligations as Regent Masters and were either senior MAs, or Bachelors or Doctors of higher faculties.) By Elizabeth’s time, of course, the religious houses had been abolished; otherwise the composition of the Caput remained unchanged. All business to be put to the vote in the University had to pass through the Caput, and every member had a right of veto. It was succeeded as an executive committee by the Council of the Senate in 1856. Until then the constitution of the University had remained stable, although, fortunately, the statutes regarding the syllabus had become a dead letter. Elisabeth Leedham-Green is a Fellow and Archivist of Darwin College, Ancient Archivist of Corpus Christi and author of A Concise History of the University of Cambridge (1996).
The Vice-Chancellor’s Cup, made in London 1592–3, was presented to the University by the Earl of Essex, Chancellor 1598–1601.
Opening the Doors
Who comes to Cambridge? R AY J OBLING
isitors to Cambridge cannot but encounter the University and the colleges. It probably lives up to everyone’s idea, maybe ideal, of a ‘university city’. In term time certainly the students are everywhere, thousands of them, apparently constantly on the move. Outsiders come, of course, with preconceptions founded upon images and a narrative built up over decades, resting upon anecdotes, press coverage, and fiction going back decades and thereby firmly planted in the popular mind. The students are expected to be young, bright, ambitious, and full of obvious (even loud and obtrusive) social confidence born of family origin and fostered in a public school background… with attitudes and accents to match. Perhaps a brainy, studious, select few will reveal humbler origins. Whatever, they all play rugger, row, sometimes chat in cafés, and always cycle furiously. It adds up to a notional finishing school on the one hand, and an academic hothouse on the other. The city streets, and more so the college courts, seemingly offer a glimpse of the country’s traditional elite. The reality is more complex. Cambridge University now provides not just undergraduate education and first degrees to British schoolleavers, but also advanced courses and research for the PhD for those Left: Open day tour for prospective new students, 2007. Right: A demonstration outside what is now the Cambridge University Press bookshop in front of the Senate House against the admission of women to the title of degrees during the vote on 21 May 1897. It was another 50 years before the vote was carried in favour of women graduates.
“The University has swallowed at least two revolutionary proposals. These are the admission of post-graduate members of the new college without preliminary degrees, and the inclusion in its midst of a college which is mainly specialist in character. To add to these a proposal for a coeducational college would be like dropping a hydrogen bomb in the middle of the University!” Jock Colville, Private Secretary to Sir Winston Churchill, advises that the new Churchill College to be built in Cambridge should not be opened to women, 1958.
who have already graduated – increasingly from other universities. Whereas the former remain largely British, though the numbers from other countries are growing, among the graduates those from abroad have now become a majority. Cambridge is in this educational sense, as in its research, a university with a clear and important international role and mission. The culture and feel of the student community has been changing accordingly… more mature perhaps, certainly more cosmopolitan, serious, and fully committed to scholarship. Cambridge stands at the pinnacle of the academic hierarchy, topping the league tables, and if the students are to be seen as an elite, that judgement must rest on their academic qualifications and intellectual strengths. They, both undergraduate and graduate alike, indisputably work longer and harder on average than their predecessors. Their working days can be long and spent increasingly in laboratories on sites well away from the historic centre, and the arts faculties have also to some extent moved out. College libraries now offer students 24-hour access, an opportunity appreciated and accepted.
38 / Opening the Doors
On 4 July 1998 over 900 women between the ages of 68 and 96 responded to the invitation to come to Cambridge to accept the apology of the University for failing to recognise women for so long. It was 50 years from the admission of women as full members of the University. The fit processed on foot from Newnham to the Senate House and were cheered as they walked through the streets. The less fit and those from Girton were taken by bus with a motor cycle escort and drove down Trinity Street the wrong way to the astonishment of the crowd who looked at the signs on the buses. When they read them they clapped enthusiastically, many of the women with their hands high above their heads. I had one year not being a member of the University but attending lectures with the men, taking the same exams, but no gown. In October 1948 we wore gowns for the first time but the women’s gowns were made with sleeves open only below the elbow; these sometimes caught on the open handles of the cars of the day, bringing their wearers off their bikes. Within a short time a sewing woman was brought in to cut away the sleeves to the shoulder, removing the risk. Enid Woolett (1947) In my day it was very relaxed. A letter from my housemaster, one from my tutor and, yes, one from my rowing coach! That was all that seemed to be necessary and, as for an interview! My parents wanted to re-visit Cambridge, since we used to live there during the war, so we all trooped in to see the Tutor for Admissions together. There followed 15 minutes or so of small talk. I seemed to be an extra, not being called upon to speak a word! Finally, everyone rose and we were ushered out of the door, nothing having been mentioned about my admission. Worried stiff, I blurted out: ‘When will I know if I have been accepted or not?’ T for A: ‘Oh, dear chap. Don’t worry about that. Once we’ve accepted a man, just let us know when you would like to come up to the University.’ I don’t remember ever receiving any sort of formal acceptance, but I arrived and no one objected, so I stayed for four years in one of the most stimulating environments in the world. Alan Shrimpton (1957)
Advice from Hints to Fresh-men at the University of Cambridge, 1807.
“Dear Sir, I will be obliged to you to order me down 4 Dozen of Wine, Port, Sherry— Claret, & Madeira, one Dozen of Each; I have got my Furniture in, & begin to admire College Life. Yesterday my appearance in the Hall in my State Robes was Superb, but uncomfortable to my diffidence.” George Gordon Lord Byron, letter to John Hanson (1805)
More generally, the student body reflects changes occurring in the wider society over recent times. In the 1950s, even into the 1960s, the colleges still relied for their admissions upon links with schools built up over a long period, particularly in the independent sector. Contacts were undeniably important in this process, and while without doubt the already privileged thus secured yet more advantage, there is ample evidence that the system was far from wholly exclusive. There were undergraduates who were very definitely by no means privileged in their backgrounds. This was the era of College Entrance and Scholarship Examinations, confirming a determination to assess academic potential in a more formal fashion than via the legendary interview alone. They gave the gifted grammar school ‘scholarship boys’ (still mainly boys) their opportunity – clever, articulate and ambitious. By the mid-1960s a great expansion in higher education was under way, reflecting not just the transformation of secondary education but also greater demands for professional and managerial talent, and also rising popular aspirations. The term ‘firstgeneration student’ came into use. Older universities expanded and new ones were founded. Cambridge in turn adapted accordingly. During the 1970s and 1980s of course the colleges changed their statutes to become co-educational establishments. Matriculation at Girton, 1979, the year in which men were admitted as undergraduates to what had been the first women’s college.
Who comes to Cambridge? / 39
A scholarship student from East Ham Grammar School, I was one small drop in the post-war, Labour-sponsored tidal wave that was changing Britain from a society of privilege to one of merit. Cambridge, with prescience and daring, absorbed about 6,000 of us in three years. This influx of raw talent must have delighted the faculty. Our parents were mostly labourers and trades people. We were often the first family member, ever, to enter a university. My grandmother washed floors to keep me in school. Of course there were challenges. Professional counselling did not exist at Cambridge, and some made bad academic choices or just drowned. I did not even understand the title of one of my first maths courses! However, I think we, in our different ways, have justified the faith that Cambridge and our families had in us. Richard Mansfield (1954)
In my entrance examination it seems that what interested my examiners most was my free topic essay on the good works of Adolf Hitler following his publication in 1925 of Mein Kampf. At my interview my views were intensively probed. ‘Was I an active Fascist?’ came one question. My opinions of the later Hitler seemed to put minds at rest and my schoolgirl image must have seemed unthreatening too. It has always been amazing what Hitler got away with and how he got people of high position to help him. But perhaps I should not be surprised. In 1950 I arrived at Newnham porters’ lodge with my substantial luggage for my first term. I was told which room I had been given in Peile. As I moved with some difficulty in that general direction a woman, in what I must say struck me as eccentric attire, asked if she could help me with my awkward load. Remembering my father’s briefing that there would be staff to assist me, I accepted help and on arriving at my room I said a polite thank you, giving her a silver sixpenny piece for her prompt aid. It was accepted with a smile. She smiled very kindly at me again next day when I was formally introduced to her – the Vice-Principal. I was reading Modern Languages and had several brilliant lecturers, who were academically strong but had appalling accents. One of them, recently deceased, invited me courteously not to attend his lectures when he’d planned to read out lengthy passages in the foreign tongue. The intense care and interest shown for my studies by my tutors were unsurpassable. However, afternoon lectures were not infrequently skipped in favour of tennis, and I played against Oxford in each of my three years. Dancing at the ‘Dot’ was regarded as important too, where it could be argued that tangos at least provided the colouring of another country and occasionally a new word – not in the books. Elvira Kinsman Young (1950)
A literary critic, particularly one of the Freudian persuasion, might make much of my first memory of dining in. There I was in hall, looking down at my soup. I took up a spoon and stirred. And stirred again. But without result: the substance just would not combine with the liquor. Then I realized that I had been trying to dissolve the college arms emblazoned in the bowl. Apart from possible symbolism, the incident was revealing. I was one of Tom Sharpe’s grammar school tykes, from a home that did not run to armorial crockery, though certain of the Fellows would probably have been surprised to discover we had by then got beyond chipped enamel pannikins. There were, I think, three interviews in college. The one that sticks, well, let’s say in my memory, was with Mr Camps. I waited for what seemed hours by his black-painted door only to be greeted in his disconcertingly halting manner with the words: ‘Ah yes, I… know your… brother, so I… don’t… need to talk to you,’ and be sent on my way. Christopher Smith (1957) Until 1963, the colleges conducted their own independent admissions, although the Scholarship Examination was run by an inter-college Board of Examiners. With the boom in applications in the early 1960s, the group system was adopted, where candidates applied to a group of colleges and sat a central entrance examination. This was then abandoned in 1985 in favour of places offered based on interview and A level grades.
Physical Sciences and Technology
Probing new frontiers M ALCOLM L ONGAIR
ambridge has been at the forefront of the physical, mathematical and technological sciences throughout its history. It is a daunting task to maintain and enhance the legacies of such giants as Isaac Newton, Ernest Rutherford, J.J. Thomson, G.H. Hardy, Frank Whittle, Maurice Wilkes, to mention only a few of the most prominent personalities of our heritage. While excellence in mathematics has been part of Cambridgeâ€™s scientific culture from the very beginning, most of the great developments in the experimental sciences and technology belong to the 20th century. From the college-based University of earlier centuries, the physical and technological science departments grew phenomenally during the last century in response to fundamental discoveries, the need for larger and more expensive facilities and the increasing importance of these disciplines for society at large. The formal presentation of the science syllabuses and examinations remain the responsibility of the University departments, but teaching within the colleges through the supervision system remains at the core of learning and understanding in Cambridge. Particularly over the last 50 years, there have been major changes in the undergraduate teaching programmes in the physical, mathematical and technological sciences. Much of this has been driven by advances in the disciplines but the expectations of the students have also evolved. They are as brilliant and creative as ever, but they come with somewhat different preparation from the expectation of 50 years ago â€“ their education is broader but in less depth. A particular challenge is the need to provide mathematical support and the difficulty students have in relating the mathematics to the physical phenomena they are describing. Nobody is pretending there is an easy way of doing this; if there were, we would have discovered it long ago. But this challenge is part of the process of replacing school understanding with university and professional thinking at the highest level. The change from a three-year to a four-year course for essentially all the physical sciences has been a wonderful success and enabled Cambridge to produce superbly trained undergraduates who are eagerly sought worldwide as graduate students. Research project work is now part of the undergraduate syllabus for all physical science and technology The European Southern Observatory VLT/VLTI site at Cerro Paranal in Chile, 2007, where Cambridge astrophysicists make observations on the most advanced telescopes available.
departments and is a joy to supervise. Each year a few undergraduates produce outstanding innovative research which is published in such prestigious journals as Physical Review Letters. A second feature is the expansion of the syllabus to cover a much broader range of topics which are important for students in their later lives and for society at large. There are now examinable courses in entrepreneurship, education, medical physics and environmental science which would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. The last 50 years have seen fundamental changes in the way in which Cambridge departments in the physical and mathematical sciences carry out their research programmes. From a period when much scientific work could be carried out on a laboratory scale with modest resources, most physical science and technology departments are now dependent upon access to expensive and often large-scale facilities to maintain their research programmes at the cutting edge. At one end of the scale there is participation in huge projects, such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the telescope facilities of the European Southern Observatory and the Diamond synchrotron radiation facilities. Even in areas which are traditionally thought of as being desk-based, such as applied mathematics and theoretical physics, many programmes are reliant upon access to massive and expensive computing facilities. Cambridge has been extraordinarily successful in winning the resources from the research councils and other bodies to participate in and carry out research in essentially all frontier areas. The message of these examples is that Cambridge is a researchdriven university, supported by a very large body of outstanding graduate students, research fellows and post-doctoral workers. These individuals are crucial to the maintenance of the vitality and regeneration of the research programme. While the staff members continue to be the leaders and inspiration of research, the pressures of teaching, management and accountability as well as the increased intensity of international competition and co-operation in research have meant that many of the best scientists cannot spend as much time at the coal-face as in the past. Despite these pressures, Cambridge physical sciences and mathematics continue to be amazingly productive and are undoubtedly in the very top rank internationally according to any metric.
Physical Sciences and Technology Physics and astronomy M ALCOLM L ONGAIR
hysics and astronomy are traditionally thought of as ‘fundamental’ physical sciences. Yet the subjects are not just ‘intensive’, but also ‘extensive’, giving rise to new disciplines. A classic example is James Watson and Francis Crick’s discovery of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule, which was made in the context of understanding the X-ray diffraction analyses of biological molecules in the Cavendish Laboratory. In turn, this led to the foundation of the Laboratory for Molecular Biology which developed a life of its own and resulted in the award of numerous Nobel Prizes in the biological and life sciences. In astronomy, the new discipline of astrobiology is rapidly becoming a reality as a result of the discovery of a large population of extra-solar planets. It is only partly in jest that the motto of the Cavendish Laboratory is: ‘Physics is what physicists do’. In physics and astronomy, the very best researchers are appointed and are then supported to pursue their scientific instincts wherever their research takes them.
Above: E.T.S. Walton operating the Cockroft Walton machine, the simplest form of linear ion accelerator, in 1932. Right: The Helium-3 Spin-Echo Spectrometer, in the new Cavendish Laboratory, 2007.
On the very large scale, particle physics, inaugurated by the discoveries of the electron and the nucleus by Thomson and Rutherford, continues to probe the very nature of matter itself. Cambridge particle physicists are deeply involved in the forthcoming experiments at CERN to discover the Higgs boson and new types of elementary particle. These experiments may provide insight into the nature of the dark matter which we know dominates the large-scale structures in the Universe we live in. A crucial spin-off of these massive endeavours was the need to handle and communicate huge bodies of data. The World Wide Web and the internet were invented at CERN and life without these would nowadays be unthinkable. From the earliest days of the computer, pioneered in the Computer Laboratory with machines such as EDSAC, Cambridge physicists and astronomers have been at the cutting edge of exploiting their capabilities. I fondly remember my own first cosmological simulations of 1964 carried out on the EDSAC 2 computer. Large-
Physics and astronomy / 57
J.J. Thomson and Ernest Rutherford 1895 was a key year for the development of research in Cambridge. For the first time, the University allowed students to come to Cambridge from other universities to study for higher degrees. J.J. Thomson had been Cavendish Professor of Experimental Physics since 1884 and, among the first generation of foreign students, Ernest Rutherford came to the Cavendish Laboratory from New Zealand. 1895 was also the year in which X-rays were discovered by Roentgen and in the following year Becquerel announced the discovery of radioactivity. Thomson and Rutherford responded to these discoveries by changing the course of their researches, Thomson to study the origin of X-rays and cathode rays and Rutherford radioactivity. By 1897, Thomson and his principal assistant Ebenezer Everett had carried out a remarkable series of experiments in which they determined the charge-to-mass
Left: Ernest Rutherford’s notes on the structure of the atom. Below: The 1897 Cavendish Laboratory research group photograph, which includes J.J. Thomson (seated, centre) and Ernest Rutherford (seated, far right). C.T.R. Wilson, the inventor of the cloud chamber, is standing second from the left.
ratio of the cathode rays. Thomson concluded that the cathode rays, which had been named electrons a few years earlier by Johnstone Stoney, were the first known sub-atomic particles. They went on to demonstrate that the ␤-particles ejected in radioactive decays and the particles ejected in the photoelectric effect were exactly the same subatomic particles, the electrons. Thomson continued his studies of the electron, providing the first estimate of its charge using the newly developed Wilson cloud chamber in 1899. His electron studies culminated in his demonstration with Barkla that the number of electrons in atoms was roughly half their atomic weight, showing that the number of electrons in the atom could not account for the total mass of atoms. Rutherford was an experimentalist of genius who, almost singlehandedly, established the physics of radioactivity. He elucidated the radioactive decay chains involving elements heavier than lead. In turn, this led to the first reliable estimates of the age of the Earth, supporting the view of the geologists that it was more than 700 million years old. After a period at McGill University in Canada, he accepted the Chair of Physics at Manchester University where he carried out a brilliant experiment in which he demonstrated that the ␣-particles released in radioactive decays are the nuclei of helium atoms. In 1911 he discovered the atomic nucleus in ␣-particle scattering experiments and made the first estimates of the size of the nucleus. On his return to Cambridge as Cavendish Professor in 1919, he discovered nuclear disintegration induced by fast ␣-particles. Thomson and Rutherford were awarded Nobel Prizes for their pioneering experiments which were to usher in a new epoch in experimental and theoretical physics.
The Genius of Scale
Evolution of the colleges M ARILYN S TRATHERN
public purse in terms of its research output (as through the national Research Assessment Exercise), gives it common cause with universities across the country, and across the world. It has also given the university half of Cambridge common cause with its colleges. Colleges have similarly evolved, not least in terms of the professionalism of staff, communications networks, outreach programmes – and in their interactions with the University. At the start of the 21st century, there are more occasions for co-operation among themselves, and a greater degree of interdependence with the University, than anyone could have imagined a generation ago. Combined efforts to raise funds for student bursaries is a prime example. For this world-class research university is equally a world-class teaching university – and at a level that marks British universities generally, and Cambridge in particular, out from its international peers: undergraduate training. Here
Above: Lucy Cavendish College, 1970. Established to encourage mature women back to education, the group photograph was taken after the move from Silver Street to Lady Margaret Road, showing all students and staff. This was the last year before the college was allowed to admit undergraduates. Left: Central Cambridge, including parts of Trinity Hall, Trinity, Gonville & Caius, Clare and the Senate House.
he colleges weave their way through this book, as they do through students’ lives. They are the context in which much learning and an impressive amount of teaching goes on. That every student is a member of a college at once introduces a complexity into Cambridge and simplifies everything. Of course the University is as much added to the colleges as the other way round. Cambridge originally consisted of small societies of masters and scholars, not collectively known as a university until the early 14th century. But the modern University with its numerous separate departments and subjects has a much shorter history. The huge expansion of academic disciplines and constantly developing fields of study in the 19th century has added several layers of complexity. In the 20th, having to respond to financial constraints and managerial pressures, and not least making itself accountable to the
The neo-classical façade at Downing College, founded in 1800, and designed by architect William Wilkins, also responsible for buildings at King’s and Corpus Christi.
84 / The Genius of Scale
Left: Winston Churchill with spade at the planting of an oak tree on the site of the new Churchill College, 17 October 1959.
and the home from which they will sally forth to lectures. The department or faculty may come to play an increasing part in their lives, especially in subjects where the laboratory looms large or where classes are organised by lecturers. But for many students, it is the college Director of Studies who sets up the supervisors for whom they complete reading assignments and write essays. College libraries, huge resources for personal study, invariably have lights burning late. Like their students, many teachers and researchers combine department and college lives too. A college is a company of people from all the subjects that the University encompasses, an exhilarating amalgam of interests and enthusiasms. Take any rowing eight or cricket side – or choir, drama society or dinner table – and any discipline could be there. What is so valuable about that form of collegiality is not just the lateral thinking it engenders but the knowledge it brings of others’ work practices, pressures or preoccupations, and of what other parts of the University are like. So colleges add their own administrative layers. They also simplify. This is the genius of scale. Each college is the University in microcosm, working democracies independently governed. And as residential institutions, colleges bring complexity down to the manageable proportions of daily life. Certainly none is quite like its neighbour in the way it organises its house staff, gardeners, cooks, electricians, not to speak of administrators, tutors, the bursar and the nurses. And alongside the quiet evolution of individual colleges whose identity Tony Jedrej
colleges benefit the University beyond measure. The Cambridge college is a unique resource for small group teaching, and a unique formula for staff–student contact. At the heart is the fact those who admit the students are also going to be teaching them, but don’t examine them (that is an external, University, matter). This is special to undergraduates. Colleges have always appreciated their masters and doctoral students, an ever-increasing proportion these days, but do not admit or teach them in the same way. They back up the research training the University offers with different possibilities for scholarly contact. For undergraduates, the college is their first point of call, second- and third-year students often making a special point of welcoming freshers,
Above: Architect's original plan for Churchill showing courtyards.
Left: The heads of all 31 Cambridge colleges, elected to their posts by their college Fellows, meet regularly in the Colleges Committee.
Evolution of the colleges / 85
The genius of scale is replicated throughout the system. Indeed it is the very replication of the colleges alongside one another that fosters the quality of education. Cambridge undergraduates experience an intimate attention to their work on a par with that offered to graduates. This makes a huge difference to standards and to the satisfaction they derive from their courses; no wonder the Cambridge drop-out rate is negligible. This is the scale-effect of the supervision system. It is well known that colleges also multiply access to resources such as libraries and other facilities; less well known perhaps is the replication of opportunities. Thus colleges pride themselves on the post-doctoral research fellowships they offer, from their own funds, across the disciplines, that start many scholars off on their careers. Finally, colleges simplify what could otherwise be inordinately complicated. And they do that by a kind of unseen education. Life is never lived at one pace or in a single time frame, and that is a learning experience that the 31 colleges add to the University. One needs to develop the ability to move between places, to be both several kinds of person and still be one person. This is not just a question of diversity, but – and we return to this word – of complexity, of the ways in which situations fold in on one another. Students have to live that complexity: it is not something that anyone else can do for them. This kind of environment is also good for the brain. It nourishes the built-in ability to switch between modes of thinking. It fosters the capacity to move between contexts, in short, to manage something like the complexity students are going to find in the world beyond the University.
endures, new identities are created in response to new needs. The pioneering women’s colleges led the way in the 19th century; in the 20th, specific Cambridge foundations have responded to the needs of graduate students, mature women students, and visiting scholars, and brought within the system educational professionals. But the genius of scale has another side. Together the colleges have allowed the University to solve an organisational problem in a way that could never have been planned. Grow large, remain intimate. It can increase student numbers while also keeping students in relatively small communities. This could not be more significant for its continuing expansion. Cambridge has been able to grow while sustaining intimate working environments quite distinct from the laboratory or department.
Marilyn Strathern is William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology and Mistress of Girton College.
Above: Sidney Sussex College. Right: Dining Hall at Girton. The college was founded in 1869 as the first residential college for women in the country, and moved to its present location in 1873. Overleaf: Summer – Magdalene College. Photograph by Hiroshi Shimura.
Myth and reality
“… the Cambridge Myth is the hopeless tangle of all the things about the place which have got the most publicity outside the University. You know— heigh-ho! for hearty drinking, eccentric dons, idleness, the Blue-Boat, Nightclimbers, Footlights, May Balls and Gogmagogs. Ah! King’s Chapel, Bridge of Sighs, punting on the Backs, and tea at Grantchester with Rupert Brooke. All built up to a golden world, where the only hazard is to be chased by Proctors round neo-Gothic eyesores. Its more blatant manifestations should be enough to arouse many suspicions. But no. It’s subtle enough to insinuate itself into the ideas of the most wary. So take pains to suppress it, in yourself first, and as far as you can in other people…” Varsity Handbook, 1960
uring the war, we all had to do some sort of military training. This was difficult for Nat Sci students as the timetable of lectures and practicals was very full. But the 7th Cambridgeshire Counter-Attack Battalion of the Home Guard fitted our needs as all the parades were in the evening or weekends. You might have thought from its name that this was some sort of elite corps, ready for anything. Actually, it would have disgraced Dad’s Army. But we all had bicycles (which made us mobile) and 1917 rifles (though no bullets). It was supposed that we would ride out into the Fens to repel German paratroopers (hence counter-attack). Lucky indeed that we were never put to the test, or I would not be writing this more than 60 years later. Graduating from schoolboy to manhood in the 1940s almost inevitably involved starting to smoke. Most freshers quickly equipped themselves with pipes, tobacco jars (bearing college crests), cigarettes and lighters. Smoking was then thought of as a harmless and rather sociable pastime: amazing to see what passion it has since aroused. James McFarlane (1943) T HERE is a serious dearth of teaching staff in the University. For four days I have been asking different men if they have time to supervise my work and each has made the same reply: ‘I have a lot of people on my hands already; perhaps you could try Mr Blank!’. The fourth Mr Blank
– a cheerful pipe-smoking fellow of about 35 with a wife and two children – was willing to take me on. He had spent two joyless months looking for somewhere to live before he found his flat, and as he apologetically told me: ‘Of course as far as French literature is concerned, I’m a bit rusty myself after five years in the navy.’ Supervisors are overworked and attendance at lectures has long passed saturation point. As the church clocks slowly chime out the morning hours, with traditional lack of synchronism, the streets are abnormally full of students walking or cycling between lectures. They move in surging groups through Petty Cury, fan out in the Market Square and force their way in fast currents down the passages and closes to lecture hall or lab. Outside the Arts School there is an unorganized crowd some one hundred strong, locked in a scrimmage of two mighty sides trying to gain entrance and exit. But in ten minutes the two sides have changed places and are going about their proper business: the outgoing students have found another door
Opposite: 6am, Trinity May Ball, June 2008. Above: Emmanuel undergraduates carrying gas masks during the Second World War.
90 / Undergraduate Life
around the corner and the incoming crowd has been dispersed about the various lecture rooms. The first-comers have found seats and the late arrivals scrounge chairs or squat on the steps and platform beside the lecturer’s rostrum. These students are anything but homogeneous. There are the older men back from war service, many of them struggling to keep a family on their state grant; you see them soberly shopping on their free afternoons with wife on one arm and basket on the other. There are the freshmen who have spent some years in the forces, and for whom a student’s life is novel and stimulating. Lastly there are the freshmen proper. Young and very fresh from the sixth form, they are slightly reverential of this older generation, which tends willy-nilly towards aloof segregation. Extract from the diary kept by Kenneth Knight (1946) during his first term/on his return to Cambridge after army service T HERE was a tremendous feeling of freedom and relief in the air, a return to normal, back to sanity after the years of terror and, more frequently, boredom. A determination to enjoy life, a release from the stifling discipline of the services. It was the last year for the war
generation, those who had served and come up (for a two-year degree) thanks to a grateful and generous government. The University was full of ex-wing commanders, captains, oh! every sort and rank of soldiers, sailors and airmen, all discreetly and firmly civilian, but with experience beyond anything that, thank God, we know today. I myself had spent some three years on the lower deck, as I joined just after the war had finished, when the Admiralty was engaged in running the Fleet down and didn’t really want any more of those damned amateurs. While it was tedious and rather uncomfortable, I now realize that I would not have missed it for worlds; it was a great experience. Brian Russell (1948) FOR a reason never disclosed the Senior Tutor believed that military service before going up would be educationally and personally beneficial, and also that spending one’s first year out of college would be helpful in some equally mysterious way. As a result, 1949 saw me exchanging the spacious flat in northern Greece provided by the army for a small broom closet on the way to Histon provided by the College. The culture shock was massive. Moving after Christmas to King’s Road (Newnham), and hoping to reduce the initial disappointment, I fell in with the widowed Mrs Hayward, a compassionate landlady of the finest traditional type, whose commands, however, were not to be ignored.
“It is a good idea to order a few hundredweight of logs to eke out your coal ration during the winter. Electric fires are forbidden to undergraduates in some colleges, but the small portable gas fires you can get are useful. A brick on a gas ring is a useful way of taking the chill off a room if you don’t want to light a fire.” Varsity Handbook, 1950
Myth and reality / 91
‘Write your essays on the table. The desk is full of rice.’ ‘Why?’ ‘For the next war, of course’. ‘You moved his razor. Don’t do it again.’ Everything in the house had to remain as on the day her husband left Cambridge to be killed in France. ‘You can’t go to the lavatory yet’ (outside in the garden). ‘The duck’s in there. Wait until she’s laid her egg.’ ‘Here’s your breakfast. The cat got part of it out of the frying pan, but there’s enough left. Eat up.’ In this freshman year, set texts were also a problem. Until then noone had told me what to read; being widely read had been assumed. No matter. A genuine Cambridge education began at the beginning of my second year when I moved into excellent rooms in Walnut Tree Court and began to benefit from the pleasures and challenges of college life. Michael Collie (1949) IN my last year the chickens came home to roost; it looked as though I would fail my Finals. I gave up acting, and swimming gave me up. I had a wonderful Director of Studies called Roland Winfield. He had been an RAF doctor in the war, and flown eighty bombing missions to study air-crew stress and then become a parachutist. He was given a Fellowship, but did no research and not much teaching: this might be acceptable in Trinity, but not at St John’s. As finals came closer, Roland gave me some blue pills and some pink pills. ‘The pink ones are to give you three hours of sleep a night, which is all you can afford’, he said, ‘and the blue ones are to keep you awake while you do in a few months all the work you should have done in three years.’ James Cellan Jones (1949)
“The ton or beau monde, pinnacle of arriviste ambition, divides its time between Trinity, Miller’s, Newmarket, and London; the world of the cloth waistcoat and the flat cap, mainly composed of Legal and other Smoothies, is to be found in the E.S.U., the K.P., or the Pitt Club; the academic intelligentsia frequents the tea-room of the University Library; the politicians may be seen boring each other to extinction in the Union; the Cambridge writers and actors (few of whom either write or act) are often to be heard in the Copper Kettle and the Whim. The Bath is a rendezvous for many of Cambridge’s tweedier citizens: the Pickerel for her jazzmen; the Baron for the Magdalene or Visual Arts contingent; and the Volunteer for what used to be known as the Hearties. Tulliver’s is usually crowded with first and second-year lecture-goers; and one is given to understand that those who wear College scarves may be encountered in the Dug-out. Each of these groups has its distinctive dress, speech, gestures, and mode of behaviour.” Varsity Handbook, 1950
Draghunting In the late 1940s and early 1950s, runners had to be found to pull the drag around for the Cambridge University Drag Hunt. I was a member of the Cambridge University Hare and Hounds Cross Country Running Club and so was deemed suitable. Bottles containing panther urine came by train from London Zoo and were collected from the Railway Station. The Drag was about the size of a brick and made of Hessian packed with cotton waste and attached to a rope about six feet long…the runners were briefed by the Master of the Drag Hunt, Marcus Kimball, and given a light lunch of cheese rolls and a glass of port. We were taken to the start of the course, usually to the west of Cambridge and told where there was any wire as this had to be avoided. The drag was then primed with the precious fluid and we set off over the heavy Cambridgeshire clays along the appointed route. Occasionally we were caught by the hounds and the drag hunt, but not often. The hounds were not fierce and seemed quite content to sniff the drag and then go off and do their own thing! The riders would jump off their horses with cries of ‘hold my horse’, which we did. The runners with whom I went were usually Roger Shaw (Caius) and John Denton (Trinity or Magdalene). Our reward was an invitation to the Drag Hunt dinner at the Pitt Club. The food and drink were stupendous – my memory is of Black Velvet, stout and champagne, as an aperitif with oysters. Are there any of the other runners still running, or indeed still alive, I wonder? Archie Dunbar (1948)
Beagling This picture of the Trinity Foot Beagles was taken in 1987 with the Master of Magdalene, Sir David Calcutt, at a time when all three masters of the pack were members of the College. Despite its name membership of the pack, which is now amalgamated with the South Herts, is open to all members of the University from whom it continues to draw support. The pack traces its origins to 1862 and my son Dominic Armstrong, on the left of the photograph, was the fifth generation of the family to be involved. When not out with the Beagles I was also a member of the ‘Panther Club’ referred to above by Archie Dunbar – alive but not necessarily running! Angus Armstrong (1958)
92 / Undergraduate Life
Left: Alexander Campbell and William Rice in their rooms in St John’s, 1954.
I was an undergraduate during World War II between 1939 and 1941, and again between 1946 and 1947. When I returned to Downing a few years ago, I was delighted to note how much more comfortable and convenient college rooms and amenities are now, and wrote this: Cold College Rooms Our toasting forks we had to make From straightened hanger wire As we discussed philosophy Before a glowing fire. Bill shot down and Leo died And Harry’s old and grey – So too am I as I recall Our rooms of yesterday. But now there is a telly set Where once a scuttle sat. Plug in the pop-up toaster and Turn up the thermostat. Ralph Lewin (1939)
F OR me, the point about Cambridge was and must be still, that wherever you are you’re only 15 feet from a congenial person. And you know you’ll not find that civilized delight ever again. Nor, unless you inhabit the South Bank, will you again encounter so much art and music and cinema and friendship and highest standards in so tiny an area. In the claustrophobia of sheer joy even time is constricting. Everything has to be crammed into eight weeks, but an hour… Two vacations were for desperately catching up with the reading and the long vac was for menial jobs in hotels or Swedish forests. Travel was hitch-hiking, where you raced rival hitch-hikers across Europe. No money then, but more fun? Yes, it was colder then. The Cam froze and suddenly everyone had skates. As you skimmed along under the bridges the ice sagged and then came up again, giving the sensation of skating on waves. But there is a different Cambridge for each of us. Mine was the smell of last minute scenery and greasepaint in the ADC, and the brilliance of the Marlowe Society, who produced a mind-boggling Troilus and Cressida. My Cambridge gave me Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, the Rex Cinema, Gamma Girton’s Needle and Love’s Labour’s
Myth and reality / 93
Lost, where the players strolled from the Downing College tennis courts fitting their rackets into presses as they declared the opening lines: ‘tis but a three years’ fast. The mind shall banquet, though the body pine.’ Peter Vincent (1953)
Above: The winter of 1962–3 was the coldest since 1740 with most of England under snow from late December to early March. The Cam was frozen to Grantchester. Right: Guidance for new proctors on walking their rounds, 1946.
I MPATIENTLY and almost vengefully determined to do well academically after my two years’ National Service in the Royal Navy, I worked hard on my English essays in that first term. But I also worked hard on seeking girlfriends: sated body would entail clear head for judicious writing. I visited jazz dances at the Rex Ballroom (Tuesday nights) and the Masonic Hall (Saturday nights). The joyfully improvised music seemed to mock the scripted pedantries of the Mill Lane lecture rooms. I would jive amateurishly with skilful partners in swirling skirts. I wore brown suede shoes, an old brown corduroy jacket, black shirt and black jeans which probably exuded wafts of sweat and stale tobacco, though after years of cigarette-smoking I believed myself odourless. At one of those Saturday-night dances, I invited a pleasant young woman to accompany me back to college. At that time, the rear wall of Pembroke (along Tennis Court Road, by the gate) was being reconstructed, so she and I were able to enter the college by squeezing through the builders’ temporary fencing of wire and palings. We tiptoed along, hand-in-hand in the dark, past Orchard Building to the Victorian court and up the draughty staircase to my room. In the distance, the bells of the Catholic church chimed midnight. Once inside that room, I experienced grim qualms. Suppose a porter burst in and found me there with a female? All porters had a master-key. It was strictly forbidden for any undergraduate to entertain a female in his college room after 9.30pm; indeed, an erring student could be sent down for such a gross offence. It would mean the end to my university career: goodbye, degree! Goodbye, job prospects! All those years of study, the essays, the tense exams, the memorizing of quotations and dates, the reading of thousands of works extending from Beowulf to Beckett, my annotation of the whole of Shakespeare’s output, the struggles to improve my Latin and German, the nervous fear at those
112 / Undergraduate Life
supervision. No one sent actual physical objects any more; we were convinced the last bicycle-riding University postmen were only there to reassure the tourists. Cambridge students were one of the first British groups allowed on to the social networking website Facebook. This merely meant we were among the first to discover how utterly ruinous to productivity it was. Help groups sprung up with names like ‘I’m suing Facebook when I fail my degree’ and ‘procrastination’ became the malaise du jour. But it took the pain out of courting. Having spied your target in lectures, a trawl of their Facebook page revealed their favourite author – Joyce, music – the Beatles and political views – left-wing. The next day they would arrive in the lecture hall to find you thumbing Ulysses, with ‘She Loves You’ blaring through your headphones and a red rosette on your lapel. Irresistible. Jon Swaine (2003)
“Although as we shall presently see, there were some redeeming features in my life at Cambridge, my time was sadly wasted there, and worse than wasted. From my passion for shooting and for hunting, and, when this failed, for riding across country, I got into a sporting set, including some dissipated, low-minded young men. We used often to dine together in the evening, though these dinners often included men of a higher stamp, and we sometimes drank too much, with jolly singing and playing at cards afterwards. I know that I ought to feel ashamed of days and evenings thus spent, but as some of my friends were very pleasant, and we were all in the highest spirits, I cannot help looking back at those times with much pleasure.” Charles Darwin, His Life Told in an Autobiographical Chapter, and in a Selected Series of his Published Letters, edited by his son, Francis Darwin, 1902
Right: Clare Bridge illuminated, Summer 2008.
I WENT up to Selwyn in 2003. I was struck by how dynamic and fastpaced this famously old-fashioned town was, and wondered if secretly it always had been. From our arrival hyperactive clubs and societies reps dashed about, competing for our attention and for the right to carry our cases up to our new rooms. This manic recruitment drive continued throughout Michaelmas, often aided by free wine, until everyone had signed away every last minute of spare time, and much of their work time too. Religious groups seemed to have the most luck (they probably wouldn’t call it that) and suddenly hundreds were wearing hooded sweatshirts emblazoned with biblical slogans gently reminding the rest of us that we were damned. Those who still didn’t get the message had a whole tiny Bible stuffed into their pigeonhole. Anyone over 5’10” and stockier than Kate Moss was flattered into submission by their Boat Club captain, with delusions of Varsity Race grandeur obscuring the miserable reality of 5am starts, alcohol bans and eating a whole malt loaf at the start of a race before throwing it up at the end. As well as being essentially post-politics, ours was a post-sexism era; female students had equal opportunity to work, play and drink too much. Female drinking societies, their names generally alluding to sexual acts, dined weekly with male drinking societies, their names generally alluding to acts of raw strength, either in college halls or town curry houses. If the latter, chaos typically ensued, with local couples out for a quiet Indian watching in horror as world-class scholars ate mango chutney off each other’s bodies. One thing of which we were acutely aware was the University’s dependence on technology. High-speed internet access was by then standard in every room, and Cambridge’s lifeblood was the Hermes email system, a one-stop shop for sending essays, organising supervisions and apologising for not having sent your essay for the
Arts and Humanities Philosophy: imagination and precision S IMON B LACKBURN
n many people’s minds philosophy in Cambridge is identified with the great trio of G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein. These three certainly dominated the subject, albeit in slightly different ways, in the last decade of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. The approach with which they are identified, known as ‘analytic(al) philosophy’, is usually described in terms of a revolution overthrowing misty Hegelianism and idealism, which lingered on in other more benighted parts of Britain well after it had been banished from Cambridge. But as usual with simple stories of revolutions, the picture is actually much more complicated. Analytical philosophy was supposed to be new in its concentration on meaning, and in the self-image of the philosopher as a kind of analytical chemist, only breaking concepts into their constituents rather than substances. But others before Moore, for example the doughty Victorian Henry Sidgwick, had visibly done philosophy in very much the same way as Moore and Russell, and indeed some of the arguments of each of these men find an ancestry still further back. For example, Moore advanced what became his most famous single contribution, the ‘Open Question’ argument against supposing that there could be any analysis of ethical qualities, such as goodness, in terms of scientific or psychological properties. But the argument is also found almost verbatim in Richard Price, in the 18th century. Russell’s writing on
“Cambridge was important in my life through the fact that it gave me friends, and experience of intellectual discussion, but it was not important through the actual academic instruction … Most of what I learned in philosophy has come to seem to me erroneous, and I spent many subsequent years in gradually unlearning the habits of thought I had there acquired. The only habit of thought of real value that I acquired there was intellectual honesty.” Bertrand Russell, Autobiography, 1967
Above right: Principia Mathematica, published from 1910. Right: Bertrand Russell as a BA in mathematics, Trinity College, 1893.
induction and on religion, and much of his philosophy of perception, was substantially a replay of David Hume. What was genuinely new was the deployment of new forms of logic, essentially due to the great German writer Gottlob Frege, and the hope that new logical tools could open a way through old and intractable philosophical thickets. It was to this modern logic that Russell and Whitehead made their monumental contribution, Principia Mathematica, of which the last volume came out in 1912. Cambridge of course had nurtured philosophers before the great trio appeared. Perhaps we can claim Francis Bacon, the philosophizing Lord Chancellor and prophet of the scientific revolution of the 17th century, although he was a law student while in Cambridge. We might even claim a little piece of the great humanist Erasmus who visited from the Netherlands. More certainly, in the 17th century there was the group known as the Cambridge Platonists, a group of relatively optimistic divines who hoped to challenge the dreary pessimism of Calvinism, low-church ‘enthusiasm’ in general, and the rising
Philosophy: imagination and precision / 135
The Moral Sciences Club, 1910. Russell is seated fifth from the left. G.E. Moore and J.M.E. McTaggart are standing in the middle row third from the right and at the end of the row respectively.
materialism and atheism of Hobbes. They included Ralph Cudworth, Nathaniel Culverwell, Henry More and Benjamin Whichcote. It is no use trying to disguise the 18th-century slump in Cambridge’s philosophical fortunes, as the Enlightenment broke out elsewhere, in Edinburgh, Paris and the Netherlands, but went largely unnoticed in East Anglia. However, the 19th century saw the great polymath and philosopher of science, William Whewell, enthroned in Trinity. Whewell deserves credit for being the first thinker to stress the importance of falsification as the method of scientific progress, a century before Karl Popper rode to fame on the same idea. He perhaps deserves less credit for arguing, against Darwin, that the presence of a benevolent designer in the universe was shown by the fact that the period of the diurnal rotation of the earth gives human beings exactly the amount of time that they need to sleep. Of course, if we use the term philosophy in its widest sense, Darwin himself is one of the glories of Cambridge natural philosophy, along with Newton, Maxwell, Rutherford, or Watson and Crick. Henry Sidgwick, who gave up a substantial proportion of his salary in order to fund a second Chair in Philosophy in the University – an example I urge alumni to follow – is another great Victorian philosopher. Keynes’s unkind comment that ‘he never did anything but wonder whether Christianity was true and prove it wasn’t and hope that it was’ is now regarded as pretty wide of the mark, and Sidgwick’s monumental work on ethics is again on mainstream agendas. Two contemporaries of Moore, Russell and Wittgenstein who are also enjoying something of a resurgence are the magnificently named John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart and C.D. Broad. The former, an idealist who owed more to Hegel than Frege, is remembered for his tantalizing, not wholly believable, proof of the unreality of time, a
philosophical classic because, while it is easy to dislike the conclusion, it is fiendishly hard to say what is wrong with the argument. Broad, by contrast, worked not with flashes of brilliance so much as dogged persistence, distinguishing, for instance, 17 different theories about the relation between mind and body, and proceeding to list in great detail their strengths and weaknesses. Like Moore himself, Broad may have ground slow, but his strength lay in grinding exceeding small. If there was grit in the machinery, Broad would find it. He also had a pronounced sense of mischief, perhaps illustrated in his remark that when Philosophy, or Moral Sciences, as the Tripos was then called, started up at the end of the Second World War, ‘never in the history of human thought have so few been taught so little by so many’. The only Cambridge philosopher with the confidence and brilliance to stand up to Wittgenstein was Frank Ramsey (the economist Piero Sraffa was also no punchbag). In the few years between graduation and his early death at the age of 27, Ramsey made seminal contributions in economics, mathematics, philosophy of science, logic and the philosophy of language. ‘Ramsey sentences’ are a
Frank Ramsey, mathematician, economist and philosopher, who translated Wittgenstein’s Tractatus at the age of 19 and became a Fellow of King’s College in 1924. He died of jaundice in 1930.
136 / Arts and Humanities
My recollections of Ludwig Wittgenstein remain unforgettable. I never had a one-to-one relationship with him, but I ‘sat at his feet’ – quite literally! – at the occasional meetings of the Moral Science Club at which from time to time he took the chair. Although reputed to be ‘difficult’ and even potentially ferocious, I never found him anything but courteous, welcoming and good-humoured. He had an extraordinary radiance and to this day I remain convinced that he was a mystic. Intellectually, I never understood a word of what Wittgenstein said, and I was relieved to hear later that one of my lecturers, Dr Ewing, had confessed to the same! But the few hours I was privileged to pass in Wittgenstein’s presence were, to me, something to be treasured for a lifetime. Edward Hain, formerly E.H. Bullivant (1938)
standard part of the philosopher’s toolkit, and the ‘Ramsey test’ for conditionals has a similar status in logic. Ramsey was probably the first philosopher to build a bridge from the formal, logical concerns of Cambridge to the philosophy of American pragmatism, and this is a bridge which today sees large crowds going both ways. Philosophy did not stop with these heroes. Post-war professors included the gnomic John Wisdom, and the contrastingly larger-thanlife Richard Braithwaite. Bernard Williams and Elizabeth Anscombe, the former Britain’s most eminent moral philosopher, and the latter Wittgenstein’s most eminent translator and pupil, each enriched the tradition in different ways. The former in particular edged Cambridge back towards appreciating a more historical dimension to previous thinkers, which the analytic tradition had tended to ignore, rather as the analytical chemist does not need to know the history of discovery of the rock he is investigating. By sheer brilliance and force of example Williams also placed moral and political philosophy, cold-shouldered in the analytical heyday, firmly back into the centre of the subject, where they belong. And so we come to the present generation, contemporaries about whom the historian talks at peril. Perhaps it suffices to say that anyone coming to work at Cambridge is conscious of the gaze of our ancestors and the standards and traditions of thought they have passed on to us. It is certainly an honour, but whether it is an inspiration or a burden probably depends on how well we think our own work is going. What is undeniable is that generations of students are grateful for the rigour and precision they come to appreciate at Cambridge, and it is encouraging to report that in recent years more and more, from every part of the world, have been knocking at our door. Broad’s quip would be completely out of place applied to today’s bursting lecture rooms, and crowded syllabus.
In addition to my research work in the laboratory I took up the opportunity to attend various courses of lectures. Some of these, such as those by Emeléus and Lennard-Jones, were chemical but there was also a tempting variety of other lectures on offer. In my first year I went to Bertrand Russell’s series entitled ‘Introduction to Philosophy’, a riveting performance by the perennially challenging doyen of English philosophers. The lectures were held on Thursday afternoons during the Michaelmas and Lent Terms in the Large Examination Hall which was packed to capacity. At 5pm precisely Russell entered the Hall, a slightly built man with a shock of silver hair. There was instant silence and he began: ‘I have called this series of lectures “Introduction to Philosophy”. Perhaps I should have called it “Introduction to my Philosophy”. I shall make no attempt to give an impartial survey of what used to be called philosophy up to now. I am concerned mainly to discuss…’ and so on. In his characteristically thin, high-pitched, almost rasping voice he spoke simply and forcefully, and with complete conviction that he was on a plane with previous great philosophers. It was a bravura performance and a masterly exposition which was all the more remarkable for being given by a person who was already in his 77th year. Not everyone stayed the whole course but for those of us who did the experience was enormously rewarding. Norman Greenwood (1948)
Simon Blackburn is Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow of Trinity College.
Philosopher Jonathan Barnes addresses a meeting of the Moral Sciences Club, 2006.
Philosophy: imagination and precision / 137
Ludwig Wittgenstein Wittgenstein was trained as an engineer, and became interested in the foundations of mathematics as a result. Advised to do so by Frege, he arrived in Cambridge in 1911, to work with Bertrand Russell. Initially Russell could not decide if he was a genius or mad, and it is easy to sympathize. Wittgenstein was solipsistic, obsessive and something of a bully but he was also charismatic, and a genius. He is now a natural subject for biographers, as well as poets and musicians. He published almost nothing apart from the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (right), written during the First World War and published in 1921. Directly afterwards, convinced that he had solved all soluble philosophical and logical problems, he gave up the subject and became a schoolteacher in rural Austria. He was only persuaded that there was work still to do by Frank Ramsey, who engineered his return to Cambridge in 1929. Wittgenstein decided that he needed a Cambridge degree, and submitted the Tractatus, by then widely acknowledged a philosophical classic, as his thesis. Moore and Russell were the examiners, with Moore famously commenting: ‘It is my personal opinion that Mr Wittgenstein’s thesis is a work of genius; but be that as it may, it is certainly well up to the standard required for the
Wittgenstein (right) with his friend, the mathematician Francis Skinner.
Cambridge degree of doctor of philosophy.’ From this time on, during his ‘later period’, he wrote no books, but his lectures and notes were collected into the famous Philosophical Investigations, which appeared in 1953, two years after his death, and into many subsequent collections. As a general remark, while in his early work Wittgenstein thought in terms of a direct, almost pictorial relationship between sentences and facts, in the later work he turned to think about sayings as doings, concentrating on what is done with language. He came to think that the vice of concentrating on logical form, as the early work did, suppressed the motley, divergent, messy everyday facts of meaning and thinking. One of his favourite quotations was from Goethe: ‘in the beginning was the deed’, and it is recorded that he thought of giving his later work as a motto Kent’s remark in King Lear: ‘I’ll teach you differences.’ Wittgenstein’s writing has a pithy, direct quality. It immediately impresses the reader as urgent, and central, and utterly committed to going straight to the heart of things. It has also proved surprisingly indeterminate, appearing in different ways to different readers, and therefore generating mountains of commentary and indeed mutually hostile schools of interpretation. But times move on, and it is now a while since he monopolized Cambridge philosophy. Simon Blackburn
Correspondence between Russell and Lady Ottoline Morrell, describing Wittgenstein, 1912.
Undergraduate Writing The life and disappearance of Granta J OHN S IMPSON
s the times and the University changed, so did Granta, Cambridge’s pre-eminent undergraduate magazine. Founded in 1889 as ‘A College Joke To Cure The Dumps’, it was for long years a rip-off of Punch, yet it was always inventive and well-written. Contributors included A.A. Milne, E.M. Forster, Cecil Beaton, William Empson, Thom Gunn, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Peter Cook. Its editors were often in trouble. The writer and cartoonist Mark Boxer was sent down in the 1950s for printing a poem about God which ended ‘You son of a bitch, you snotty old sod’. David Frost produced some brilliant editions and almost ran the magazine into the ground. By 1965 the distinguished poet J.H. Prynne was the don in charge, and the editors were Reg Gadney, an action painter who later became a successful novelist, and Jim Philip, another poet. One of their associates was a pioneer of concrete poetry, Mike Weaver, who taught me at Magdalene. Mike recommended me to them as the next editor; partly, I think, because I happened to be passing while they were discussing who to appoint. Nicholas Snowman came with me as co-editor, and Ridley Burnett and Norman Hammond ran the business and sales sides. There was no office, just an in-tray at a Silver Street bookshop. The money problems never went away. Once we had a showdown with someone who had been pocketing Granta’s cash. He turned up with a gun, and fired it in my face, though it turned out to be a replica. Our art editor, the weirdly imaginative and talented Richard Yeend, put an Aubrey Beardsley drawing on the cover of my first edition and as a result has been credited by at least one cultural historian with having started the Beardsley-Yellow
Above: David Frost, editor of Granta, at the printers, 1962. Left: An early edition of Granta, 1899.
The life and disappearance of Granta / 149
Running the business affairs of a magazine like Granta (then published three times each term) brought me not only sleepless nights, as we coped with ever-increasing production costs, but also the pleasure of working with David Frost. As editor, David would exercise his effervescent wit whenever possible. While passing proofs at Foister & Jagg, the local printers, we discovered that an advertiser had failed to send in material. A white space yawned invitingly. David took out his pen and scrawled the words: ‘Wellesley Nudilon Pantilets 9/11 in DuroMasturbene Luxipaks’. Po-faced he handed it to the typesetter. The ad appeared – but aroused not a single comment! Peter Cowie (1959)
Buford left Cambridge the connection withered away. Now you have to be in your forties to remember Granta as the University’s best known site for good prose and poetry. Back in 1967 Snowman, Jim Philip and I edited an anthology of Granta, as part of the endless effort to keep it afloat. The book did well, and occasionally, even now, I see a tatty copy for sale in the five-pence bin outside some second-hand bookshop. But it isn’t much, alas, to show for a century of Cambridge writing. Book revival of the 1960s. Another edition was less successful; the cover featured a photograph of a Chinese restaurant, the Pagoda, cropped so that only the letters ‘GOD’ appeared. Fearing a religious theme, Cambridge students shunned it, and one night Norman Hammond and I dropped 2,000 unsold copies into the Cam off Magdalene bridge. Granta’s financial survival was always in doubt, though Nicholas Snowman produced an opera edition which sold out completely, copies changing hands in London for remarkable prices. The magazine’s later life was strange. A tough-minded American called Bill Buford turned it into a highly successful literary magazine. Off the back of it, he created a publishing house. Both throve, but when
Granta anthology, 1967, edited by John Simpson and Jim Philip.
John Simpson read English at Magdalene, where he is now an Honorary Fellow, from 1963 to 1966. He joined the BBC on leaving, and has remained there ever since.
Social Sciences Economics: from moral sciences to game theory G EOFFREY H ARCOURT
Mirrlees, another Nobel Laureate (1996). David Newbery, the last Director of the Department of Applied Economics, works within this tradition; he is interested in applied microeconomic problems, especially in developing and transitional economies. This focus can be traced back to the origins of the Economics Tripos, started in 1903 by Alfred Marshall, Professor of Political Economy (1885–1908), which grew out of the Moral Sciences Tripos and Marshall himself. He stressed the philosophy that economics should have practical use by understanding and improving economic systems within constraints imposed by liberal political and economic traditions. His two major theoretical developments were the theory of value and distribution, which he analysed using partial equilibrium analysis, and the theory of money and monetary policy set within the Cambridge version of the quantity theory of money. The old Marshall Library of Economics on the Downing site. The Economics Faculty moved to Sidgwick Avenue in 1960 and the building now houses the Haddon Library and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
eynes called Malthus ‘the first of the Cambridge economists’, praising his philosophical, moral, historical, theoretical and observational approach to economic problems, and his ability to ‘penetrate these events [with understanding] by a mixture of intuitive selection and formal principle and thus … interpret the problem and propose the remedy’. This approach characterises Cambridge economics at its best ever since. In an era of globalisation and the pursuit of economic solutions to climate change, Arthur Pigou’s legacy of concern with social welfare issues is reflected today in the writings of Amartya Sen, one of Cambridge’s Nobel Laureates (1998), and Partha Dasgupta, and in models of optimum taxation and saving (derived from Frank Ramsey’s 1920s articles) to which are married the effects of asymmetric economic information and principal–agent relationships (here, governments and tax payers) which are the concerns of James
Economics: from moral sciences to game theory / 169
John Maynard Keynes Just above the main entrance to the Cambridge Arts Theatre there is a blue plaque celebrating the life of its founder, John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946). In a few short words it states that Keynes was a Fellow and Bursar of King’s College, an economist, philosopher, businessman, civil servant and diplomat. The plaque is easy to miss, but those who do notice it are no doubt left wondering how this famous son of Cambridge could have packed so much into a life spanning just 62 years. Keynes was born in Cambridge and, after Eton, entered King’s as an undergraduate studying mathematics. His academic brilliance ensured entry into the secretive Apostles where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Lytton Strachey and Bertrand Russell. Russell, for one, was well aware of the power of Keynes’s intellect, later claiming that Keynes had the sharpest mind that he had ever known. Despite securing a first class degree, Keynes’s interests turned to economics and he quickly became a leading light on the Cambridge economics scene. Outside Cambridge, Keynes first made his name with The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919), a strongly worded attack on the First World War peace settlement. Over subsequent years, he developed revolutionary ideas about how the economy works, culminating in The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, which appeared on 4 February 1936, the day after the formal opening of the Arts Theatre. The remaining years of Keynes’s life were largely spent defending his magnum opus and serving in the British government during the Second World War, where he played a key role in changing the way in which politicians and civil servants construct, implement and manage fiscal policy. The publication of the Beveridge Report in 1942 and its assumption that the government could run the economy along Keynesian lines after the war provided further evidence of Keynes’s influence within British political and economic circles. His death in 1946 was marked by memorial services in Washington and in London at Westminster Abbey. There was also a service at King’s College Chapel, although Keynes’s wish to have his ashes interred there was either forgotten or ignored by his brother Geoffrey, who instead scattered them on the hills above Keynes’s country home in Sussex. Despite his passing, Keynes’s ideas were taken up rapidly, not only in Britain but also in the US. By 1971, President Nixon could confidently declare that ‘We are all Keynesians now’. However, the ‘Age of Keynes’ – characterised by strong economic growth and low
Above: John Maynard Keynes writing his King’s fellowship dissertation. Portrait by Duncan Grant, 1908. Left: Manuscript outline of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, published in 1936.
inflation – was brought to an abrupt end by the 1973 oil crisis. The Keynesian model could not cope with the ensuing upturn in inflation and increased unemployment. Milton Friedman and his brand of monetarism stepped into the breach, receiving a stamp of approval from the Reagan and Thatcher governments. But although the high point of Keynesian orthodoxy may have passed, it was by no means the end of Keynes. In what sociologists of science refer to as ‘obliteration by incorporation’, the theories associated with his name (correctly or incorrectly) have become a fundamental part of economists’ toolboxes across the world, whether they know it or not. Although Keynes died young, his ideas live on. Robert Cord is a research student in the history and philosophy of science at St Edmund’s and author of Keynes: Life and Times (London, 2007).
Radicalism and activism T IM S TANLEY
henever in the bar of King’s College drinking with my old comrades, I always take a moment to ponder the hammer and sickle hidden in a corner on the wall facing the Front Court. It is a reminder of a more exciting, if not better, age. Every year the JCR gives the hammer and sickle a fresh coat of red paint, but every year the act becomes a little more anachronistic and a lot more ironic. Now a distant memory, political radicalism in 21st-century Cambridge is little more than decoration and whimsy. On occasion, I have seen Cambridge students flirt with issues bigger than themselves. There was an impressive showing of Cantabrians at the anti-Iraq war demonstrations in 2003 and the small community of Muslim students has become commendably noisy of late, campaigning against various ‘wars for oil’ and the slow erosion of civil liberties. During the Make Poverty History crusade wristbands were in great evidence and college JCRs are increasingly ‘right-on’ on issues of recycling, minority representation, disabled access and investment in the arms industry. When the government considered allowing universities to set unlimited top-up fees CUSU organised an effective campaign of private lobbying and public disobedience. Some 4,000 of us jeered and screamed like feral beasts outside the Senate House in protest, banging drums and blowing whistles. Several colleges arrived with red banners and I even grew a beard for the occasion. Our aim was to disturb a University Council meeting at 9.30am and, although few of us had ever been awake so early, we were surprisingly effective. The Council was duly unnerved, bowed to pressure, took no decision that day and only raised fees after putting in place a bursary system. Also, activism within the parties is undergoing something of a renaissance. The Trotskyites are as insidious as ever and several students have run as Green candidates in local elections. The most popular and best-read party is probably the Liberal Democrats, although the Labour Club is more ethnically and socially diverse. It drinks more, too, and has a reputation for radicalism. Last year it broke from the national student Labour Party in opposition to its lack of opposition to the war. In 2007 it even elected a woman chair, which makes it very unusual indeed among student groups. But these are exceptions. CUSU is passionately apolitical and ‘services not politics’ has consistently beaten ‘the revolution starts here’ as a
campaign slogan for the presidency. Turn-out in student body elections is pitiful, as is attendance at its council meetings. Activists complain that students will take part if something is of headline importance, but return to their books if long-term commitment is threatened. Perhaps the funk and desperate isolation of early 21st-century activism was best illustrated when an alliance of hardboiled leftists occupied an abandoned Cambridge curry house in 2005 and turned it into a squat. The goal was to provide a meeting space of ideas and activism and to offer day-care services to locals. It was raided by the police within a week and rightly so. We had turned it into a sordid paradise of drugs, alcohol and poorly executed sex. The spirit of the 1960s is there, but the flesh is very weak. Tim Stanley is a historian, political theorist and former chair of the Cambridge University Labour Club. He is co-author of The End of Politics (2006).
Above: Students taking part in the national anti-fees demonstration, London, October 2003. Opposite: Cambridge CND protestor, 1962.
182 / Student Politics
Occupation of the Old Schools, October 1968: Giles Oliver (1966) writes: ‘That is me in the centre turning the crank on the Gestetner machine, in the Council Room. The main aim was to show “solidarity” with countless other students and assorted movements in the UK and abroad. We wanted to shock people by taking over a University building right in the heart of things, so everyone could see flags and posters hanging out of the elegant first-floor windows. I recall there was a sense of frustration – and we didn’t want to be left behind as radical wallflowers as occupations swept the campuses. It went on for two or three days, we had not prepared, and it was uncomfortable dozing in the wooden window alcoves, but we thought we were heroes.’ Nicholas Roberts (1966), who took this picture for the Shilling Paper, writes: ‘I remember walking out of the building when it was over. It was a bitterly cold night with frost or snow on the ground. We had to run a gauntlet of right-wing hearties jeering, scuffling, spitting, who were kept separated from us by police and Proctors. Dispersing into the streets I think we all felt a let-down, as though we had returned from the precipice of revolutionary action to the quiet domesticity of a winter night in Cambridge.’
hen I arrived at Cambridge in autumn 1968, the student mood contrasted sharply with Manchester, where I had spent the previous four years. Left-wing politics, of course, had always been a strictly minority pastime, with the activists invariably a tiny minority. From the early summer of 1968, though, this was no longer the case. Left-wing politics, now of the revolutionary brand, inspired by the May events in France and the Tet offensive in Vietnam, came to command, seemingly overnight, the active support of an extremely large cross-section of students. Not in Cambridge, however. When I arrived it felt like a quaint backwater, far removed from what was happening to students elsewhere or in the world outside. Relatively few were engaged on the left, and those that were found themselves spectators in an unappetising contest between the Trotskyist left and the Situationists, a small and obscure group who spent their time trying to take over meetings of the Socialist Society and whose revolutionary agenda consisted of persuading students to walk across college greens and other such revolutionary acts. Not surprisingly, the left was small and isolated, never able even vaguely to fill the Lady Mitchell Hall. On reflection, there were probably two reasons why Cambridge lagged behind other places. Firstly, it was a seat of privilege, which helps to explain such a patently self-indulgent and frivolous group as the Situationists, who were non-existent at most universities. Secondly, the college structure conspired against a University-wide student politics that had been the theatre of activity elsewhere. But Cambridge was not only a seat of privilege, it was also an enormously stimulating centre of scholarship, a place where many students were manifestly serious about the world. Cambridge, for this reason, also has a longer and richer history of student left-wing politics than any other UK university. In Cambridge, 1968 saw no great student demonstrations or sit-ins, but an arcane and esoteric left that existed on the distant margins of student life. But 1968, along with 1969, proved a
Radicalism and activism / 183
A teach-in on university governance at Lady Mitchell Hall, when demands included greater representation of students on University Council and the abolition of gate hours, 1968.
transitional period during which the Situationists were isolated, the Socialist Society became the focus of the university’s left – with a far bigger following than that of the Labour Club which, during these years, was a relatively isolated and unappealing group – and at the same time began to reach out to the wider student body. The left also spawned a student newspaper, the Shilling Paper, which was rather more influential than Varsity, and attracted some of the most interesting students around as well as a significant group of dons. In 1970 the Garden House demonstration against the Greek junta captured the national headlines and indirectly led to the formation of the Cambridge Students’ Union, the first representative student body, thereby overcoming the fragmentation of the student body, and mirroring wider changes in the University. It is also noteworthy that by far the most influential group within a left which by now commanded the support of, I would guess, a thousand or more students, was the Communist Party branch. This, in itself, was an oddity, because elsewhere the Communist Party was marginal amongst students during the period 1968–71: it was a distant echo of the 1930s, when the CP was similarly influential in Cambridge. Interestingly, the local Communist Party branch proved the birthplace of Euro-Communism within the British CP, and indirectly went on to have a significant impact on the Labour Party from the late 1970s to the 1990s. Martin Jacques (1968) is a former editor of Marxism Today, author of When China Rules the World (to be published in 2009), and political columnist for the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The Times.
Arrival in Cambridge in 1972 was clouded by the feeling that the era of pop culture and student radicalism had come to an end and we had missed the party. So when one evening after hall, word spread that there was a riot in progress on the Sidgwick Site, excitement was intense. Perhaps the 1960s lived on. As groups streamed towards the site, I found myself in company with an American postgrad. He had been in Chicago during the Democratic Convention riots of 1968 and was keen to compare that experience with the local version. First impressions were not promising. About 30 activists were clustered around the glass entrance of the Lady Mitchell Hall and their leaders were rattling the doors in a half-hearted attempt to gain entry and stage a sit-in. My new friend started to mutter about the ineffectual nature of this protest. At that moment authority re-asserted itself. The imposing figure of a proctor in full academic dress strode through the crowd, accompanied by his two bulldogs. The fact that he was swinging a bound copy of the Statutes and Ordinances from a length of metal chain only added to the unreality of the scene. After a brief stand-off, the demonstrators started to rattle the doors again. The effect was instantaneous. The demonstrators leapt backwards as if they had received an electric shock and after a few minutes everyone drifted away. A voice from Illinois could be heard muttering in disbelief, ‘Call that a riot?’ John Adams (1972)
I found myself involved in a Shakespeare reading society, which met once a month in one of our rooms to read a Shakespeare play, and I became secretary of it, responsible for choosing the play and also casting parts. One member was called Guy Burgess. He was, I believe, an old Etonian, and evidently intelligent and intellectual, but his tastes were different from other people’s. He would be described as ‘louche’ today. In his room he kept a Buddha on a table, and found pleasure in blowing cigarette smoke into its mouth so that the smoke came out of his navel; we others found it rather vulgar. But we had no notion of his other political activities, which later brought him such notoriety. Another familiar figure was Anthony Blunt. He was a tall, elegant man with blonde hair, who hobnobbed with some of the Fellows, but treated with disdain ordinary mortals who played football and cricket. He was already becoming known as an artistic type. A third man later notorious (Philby) was one of the same year as myself, playing a relatively undistinguished part in the public school set, but known to be the son of a famous explorer, which gave him a cachet of his own. Gervase Markham (1929)
Extending access in a digital age P ETER F OX
post-doctoral research Fellow arrives in Cambridge to embark on a new project to investigate the psychological impact of exposure to battlefield stress. She is interested not only in the current state of knowledge about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also but in historical manifestations of the condition. From her laboratory she carries out a literature search on the University Libraryâ€™s Newton online catalogue, its electronic resources and the e-journals@cambridge website. These direct her to books and journals on current medical research as well as providing her with online access to electronic journals and a range of online abstracting services and databases. In order to enlarge the scope of her study on the historical aspects of PTSD she walks over to the University Library, where the Reading
Room staff show her the subject bibliographies and direct her to the open-access parts of the Library where she can browse the psychology and medicine sections. Psychiatry and psychology are one of the Libraryâ€™s many areas of strength, and she finds books not only in English but also in other languages, especially German, which she reads fluently. She is keen to consult primary sources, and in the Rare Books Reading Room the specialist staff suggest that she looks at the books in the Hunter Collection, a private library on the history of psychiatric treatment, acquired by the University Library in 1982. For PTSD as experienced by soldiers during and after the First World War she is thrilled to discover the First World War collection, a treasure-trove of ephemera and pamphlets collected at the time. In the Manuscripts Opposite: The Reading Room, 2008. Left: West Room and Dome Room, in the Old University Library, 1800, by Thomas Rowlandson.
Fitzwilliam’s munificent bequest D UNCAN R OBINSON
n 2004 the Fitzwilliam Museum opened its new courtyard development which provides almost 3,000 square metres of additional space for the collections and their users. The architects, John Miller + Partners, responded imaginatively to the challenge they were given, to create a building within a building and thereby to accommodate a whole range of visitor services, in addition to a new gallery for temporary exhibitions, conservation studios and curatorial offices. By remodelling the southern entrance, it became possible to offer an attractive, accessible alternative to the main entrance hall, a tour-deforce of high Victorian Baroque which is sadly deficient in amenity. It is hard to imagine what the Museum’s founder, Richard, Viscount Fitzwilliam, had in mind when he specified in his will that the University should ‘cause to be erected and built a good substantial Museum Repository’ for his collection. There were few precedents in Britain, except for the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, which mainly comprised Tradescant’s cabinet of curiosities, not yet housed in C.R. Cockerell’s elegant building. There was, of course, the British Museum, established by Act of Parliament in 1753, but that too was kept temporarily at Montagu House, pending the approval of designs for a purpose-built museum. That took place seven years after Fitzwilliam’s death in 1816, when Robert Smirke set the standard for the 19th century’s temple for the arts. For all its erudite Roman and Italianate references, George Basevi’s building on Trumpington Street, which opened to the public in 1848, clearly reflects the prototype then nearing completion in Bloomsbury. What is undeniable is the synergy between the founder’s building, with its giant portico and pediment from which the nine Muses look down, and the Grand Tourist’s collection it was designed to house. For Fitzwilliam belonged to that favoured generation of Englishmen whose tastes were informed by their travels abroad, in his case frequently to Paris, at least twice to Italy and once to Spain. Those habits of a lifetime Opposite: The Courtauld gallery showing two of the founder’s original bequests. Veronese’s Hermes, Herse and Aglauros (left, above table) and Palma Vecchio’s Venus and Cupid (centre). Right: The Hamilton Kerr Institute. As a department of the Fitzwilliam, the institute not only undertakes the conservation and restoration of easel paintings but also trains painting conservators and engages in scientific, technical and art historical research.
came to an abrupt end with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars; ironically, the very events which led to the dispersal of art collections from the mainland of Europe and the establishment of London as the centre of the international art market. Towards the end of his life, Fitzwilliam was given the opportunity to acquire paintings by Titian, Veronese and Palma Vecchio: paintings he could only have admired at a distance in his youth, when they were securely in the possession of the dukes of Orléans. By the time he wrote his will, he must have been deeply conscious of the mutability of worldly goods, and all the more determined to entrust his collections to the safe-keeping of his old University, where he clearly hoped that they would be protected from the kind of political and social pressures to which individuals are so vulnerable. But his motives were not purely precautionary; he also believed that the Museum and its contents would contribute, in his own words, to ‘the increase of learning and the other great objects of that Noble Foundation.’
The Inheritance Kettle’s Yard: the Louvre of the Pebble M ICHAEL H ARRISON
n 1995 I asked Ian Hamilton Finlay, the Scottish concrete poet, to contribute a work, in response to the house at Kettle’s Yard, to a celebration of Jim Ede’s centenary. The parcel I unpacked revealed a large, flat pebble inscribed with the words: KETTLE’S YARD, CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND IS THE LOUVRE OF THE PEBBLE. A few years later, I found myself talking in the Louvre about Kettle’s Yard and describing myself as something of an impostor, a curator of shadows and reflections, as much as a curator of works of art, and conscious that Ede would have preferred my job to be ‘Resident’ rather than Director. Pebbles, geodes, shells, fossils all find their place amid the china and glass, the books and the furniture and, of course, his
“… in a world rocked by greed, misunderstanding and fear, with the imminence of collapse into unbelievable horrors, it is still possible and justifiable to find important the exact placing of two pebbles.”
Jim Ede in 1957
remarkable collection of 20th-century works of art, all touched by the changing light of each afternoon when the blinds are opened and the house is open to visitors. Ede had been brought up in the Fitzwilliam Museum, as he played truant from the Leys School, and in the Louvre, guided by his kindly aunt Maude. And 16 years at the Tate Gallery had taught him how people relate, or fail to relate, to art in great museums. At the same time, he was acutely aware that the art made by his friends – Ben and Winifred Nicholson and David Jones – belonged to everyday life and hung more naturally in a home than in the porticoed art gallery. Kettle’s Yard was conceived as an antidote to stuffy museums, and to art being valued as a commercial commodity or as illustrations to the history of art. But also, in Cambridge, it was an offering to students and academics, steeped in their specialist subjects, suggesting that there are other needs that have to be met if human beings are to reach their full potential. For 16 years Ede opened the door to those curious to find out more, who then might leave with a borrowed picture under their arm. Now Kettle’s Yard is known the world over for the Brancusi Head of Prometheus, set famously on the piano, its exquisite Miró painting and its
Left: Jim Ede (1895–1990), creator of Kettle’s Yard (above), which he gave to the University in 1966. Opposite page: The Dancer, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, 1913.
The Inheritance University buildings before 1900 D EBORAH H OWARD
Left: The Schools Quadrangle, from Matthew Parker’s Catalogus cancellariorum, 1574, presented to the Chancellor, Lord Burleigh. Right: Entrance to the Old Schools, 2008.
That Hawksmoor’s grandiose plan remained on paper brings us to the crucial difficulty faced by the University in establishing its identity in the townscape. The appropriation of public space needs political and financial power. Whereas a pope, a monarch or a mercantile elite could acquire private land for new urban developments, the clout of a small group of University professors depended on endowments and the occasional generosity of the colleges. In the classic town–gown rivalry in Cambridge, the colleges played a more vigorous part than the University, who could hardly compete with the prosperous citizens of the town, loth to sacrifice their commercial hub. Soon after Hawksmoor’s abortive visit, the architect James Gibbs was invited to Cambridge where he designed the Senate House in 1722, and
he last half-century has seen a dramatic explosion in the University’s architectural patronage, with major new buildings for teaching and research and the construction of complete new sites. Yet in the early centuries of its history the University had few resources for building, for both space and capital endowments were in chronically short supply. As any tourist knows, the centre of Cambridge is strewn with colleges, but where is the University? The iconic landmarks on the visitor’s itinerary all belong to the colleges: King’s College Chapel, Trinity Great Court, the Mathematical Bridge of Queens’, the Gates of Caius and so on. Until the early 18th century, the University itself was squeezed into a small quadrangular court built between 1370 and 1475, surrounded on three sides by buildings belonging to King’s College and on the east side by a dense mass of townhouses. This so-called Schools Quadrangle contained the Regent House, the Library and all the teaching rooms. At this point the University was almost invisible, and even Great St Mary’s, the so-called ‘university church’, was the town’s main parish church. Graduates of Cambridge, of course, cherish memories, whether good or bad, of the Senate House from the nervous scrutiny of examination results and the subsequent graduation ceremony. Despite its prominent position, however, the Senate House itself is just a fragment of a more ambitious scheme. By the time that David Loggan recorded the Schools Quadrangle in his famous volume of engravings of Cambridge in 1688 (see over, top left), the University of Oxford already boasted the Bodleian Library and Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre. Not surprisingly, Cambridge began to sense impending inferiority. In 1712– 13 Wren’s former pupil, Nicholas Hawksmoor, devised a bold plan for redesigning the centre of Cambridge, but this was prompted by a commission for a new court for King’s, not by any University initiative. The scheme included a sweeping vista from the gate of Christ’s to King’s College Chapel, across a spacious forum (the Market Place) to be created between the churches of Great St Mary’s and St Edward’s.
Biological and Medical Sciences
Unravelling the secrets of life R ON L ASKEY
J EAN T HOMAS
he 20th century saw an explosion in our knowledge of living organisms and especially of the molecules that make up all living things. There were major advances in our understanding of heredity, how embryos develop, how cells divide and interact, how brains control behaviour, how animals and plant species have evolved and how communities of plants and animals interact with each other and with their environments. We now know far more about biodiversity and the urgent task of preserving it. We know far more about the biological basis of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and dementias and are far better equipped to seek new treatments. Cambridge was at the heart of this biological revolution, which has thrived on partnerships between the University and surrounding institutes, exemplified by the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology on the New Addenbrookeâ€™s Site in Hills Road. Staff of that laboratory have won more Nobel Prizes than most countries and their work has
had a profound and growing impact on human health. Institutes like this and, of course, the core of the University itself have served as magnets to attract further investment by research councils and major medical charities such as the Wellcome Trust and Cancer Research UK, resulting in a proliferation of world-class research institutes. These are not just ivory towers; many staff have dual affiliations between the University and research institutes and many play active roles in teaching, either through the college supervision system or through undergraduate lectures and practical classes. Together they have created a vibrant and exciting critical mass in this area of rapidly advancing discovery. The growing interaction between biological and physical sciences calls for scientists with a broad understanding of many fields. The Natural Sciences Tripos is designed to deliver scientists who have this breadth of knowledge and understanding. It encourages undergraduates to study a wide range of subjects in their first year, including both biological and physical sciences, and then to specialise progressively until they usually study a single subject in their final year. This diverse start provides a broad foundation for their subsequent education, but also exposes them to exciting areas of scientific progress that they may not have encountered before. One of the most important biological breakthroughs of the 20th century was made in Cambridge in 1953 when James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helical structure of DNA. A plaque on the Austin Building on the New Museums Site now marks the location of this crucial discovery. A former Cambridge University undergraduate, Rosalind Franklin, performed the X-ray diffraction experiments on DNA at Kingâ€™s College London that led Watson and Crick to propose their model. This was a true breakthrough, triggering immediate advances in our understanding of heredity. It suggested ways in which genetic information could be encoded and it explained how this coded information could be passed from one generation to the next. Opposite: The double-helix structure of DNA in a sculpture by Charles Jencks in the garden of Memorial Court, Clare College, which was unveiled by James Watson in 2005.
Left: Stem cells (green) derived from mouse embryos. Image supplied by Joanne Maldonado-Saldivia and Azim Surani.
‘The Cambridge Phenomenon’
Scientists and venture capital R ICHARD F RIEND
determination of the semiconducting behaviour of these materials. These transistors were not then of any great practical significance, but we found, unexpectedly, that we could produce visible (initially green) light emission when driving an electrical current through simple diode structures. This was clearly important, and we (Donal Bradley and Jeremy Burroughes) worked very quickly to establish why this was happening. We thought it was worth filing a patent, and went off to the University’s technology transfer office (then named the Wolfson Industrial Liaison Office), which was a very small affair at that time. What we needed and what we got was encouragement and networking. Resourcing was another matter, and although we were put in contact with excellent patent agents, we picked up the costs of the initial patent filing ourselves. Patents are like small babies: to prosper they need expensive and time-consuming nurture. I think I had always known the former though not the latter, but it was soon clear that getting value from the patent required a lot of work, and that we would have to drive it along.
Opposite: Aerial view of the first Science Park on the northern edge of Cambridge beside the A14.
he development of Cambridge as a centre for high technology is much documented and maybe over-analysed. However, from the creation of the Trinity Science Park in the 1970s to the present day, what was a ‘cottage industry’ has grown to become a very significant source of activity and employment (of the order of 1,000 high-tech companies with ‘CB’ postcodes with more than 30,000 employees). Though there is often criticism that Cambridge has not grown any very ‘large’ companies, the accumulated employment is very significant, and the diversity and breadth within the cluster may provide Cambridge with a structure that is more robust to cyclical downturns in the economy (the cluster was not very much affected by the ‘dotcom’ crash in 2000/2001). The role of the University in the growth of this is indirect. Trinity and, later, other colleges, have offered well-branded accommodation that has often been intelligently targeted at new companies, but few of these have been set up to take direct advantage of science and technology created within the University. I am not proposing to add further to the discussion of what caused the Cambridge high technology economy to develop as it has. However, this remarkable development on our doorstep has come to be a very valuable resource for the University. Over this period the business of making basic research useful and exploitable has moved from being an unregulated ‘minority sport’ to a mainstream part of the delivery of academic research in science and technology. My own research in the late 1980s was concerned with the possibility that carbon-based molecular materials might show semiconducting properties similar to those of silicon. This area had been accessible to experimental physicists because there was also interest in the organic chemistry community, and we had been fortunate to set up a collaboration with Andrew Holmes in the Department of Chemistry, whose group was among the first to produce semiconducting polymers that could be processed to form the thin films we needed for our experiments. We had set out to make working devices, and had successfully made a range of transistors and these provided excellent test-beds for the experimental
Faith resurgent D AVID F. F ORD
erhaps the most reliable generalisation about spiritual Cambridge in the past 50 years is that the significance of the spiritual and religious, and the complexity of their interplay with the secular, are now acknowledged more openly and adequately. Put crudely, in the 1960s it was widely taken for granted by those educated in both the West and the Communist East that Christianity, together with other religions, was in irreversible decline, and that there would be an increasingly non-religious, secularised future. By the first decade of the 21st century the perception had changed. Communism appeared to be in decline and it seemed unlikely that the estimated two billion Christians around the world would disappear soon. It was even clearer that the billion or so Muslims were a presence to be reckoned with, not least in the public sphere. In addition, some other religions had increased in prominence and there had been a flourishing of new religious movements and of many phenomena loosely labelled ‘spiritual’. The impact of all this on Cambridge has been considerable. The University has become far more fully international – it now draws students and academics from around the world. This has made it a meeting-place of the world’s spiritual traditions, beliefs and practices. The main effect of this is often remarked upon by students. Given the pervasive collegiality of the University – especially in colleges and small-group teaching, but also in departments, clubs and societies, and all sorts of informal groupings – for most the experience of Cambridge includes getting to know quite well several people of different faiths and commitments. The result is a great deal of conversation and discussion that touches on religion and the spiritual directly or indirectly. The international character also tends to change the perception of one’s own faith tradition – Muslims from Malaysia meet with those from Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan or London, and it is brought home to Christians from Britain that most of their fellow-believers are in the global south. All of this has been reflected in more formalised ways across the University. There are now chaplains for the range of faiths represented in the University, and often also for denominations within faiths. Some colleges, such as Robinson and Fitzwilliam, have developed ecumenical Christian chaplaincies; some with more secular traditions do not employ chaplains; most have Anglican chaplains or deans,
Above: The Khmer Buddha at Kettle’s Yard. Opposite: The lectern and organ in King’s College Chapel.
A question of balance S OPHIE P ICKFORD
he Cambridge sporting scene is perhaps best known for its bastions of Britishness – the Boat Race, the Varsity Match, the Hawks’ Club and the Bumps, for example. Buffties (that’s ‘alumni’ to you and me) will, at the slightest whiff of a good match, don their old club tie, break open the Pimm’s and cheer fanatically for the youth of today, custodians of all they hold dear in their alma mater. As a recent graduate and committed sportswoman, I can confirm that there are few sights more encouraging on the sidelines than some elderly supporters reminding you of your place in the grand scheme of things: one day I’ll be there too, draped in a slightly faded lion-clad banner and tottering along the touchline. But, nostalgia aside, what are the true issues that underlie Cambridge’s sporting scene today? What 21st-century concerns are student athletes facing and what direction are we moving in? In 1892 the Cambridge Review observed that ‘a swimming bath is now beginning to be considered as a necessity in most of our large public schools … consequently, it seems strange that we are still without one’. This astute commentator of 113 years ago could, sadly, just as well have been writing this week, for the travesty continues – Cambridge University has no pool. In fact, Cambridge University has, overall, very poor centralised sporting facilities indeed. To be fair, plans for a multi-million-pound sports centre including a sports hall, squash and tennis courts, 50m pool and sports science centre are underway; architectural models have been built, a site chosen and fund-raising has begun. But, as with the fabled Cambridge rowing lake or the ice rink, this has all been going on for rather a long time and a new injection of enthusiasm, publicity or, perhaps more importantly, money, is the order of the day. In the meantime, the University swimming and water polo clubs continue to use the Leys School pool for the majority of their training, one of the University’s less fine traditions stretching back to 1906. Opposite: The Men’s Hockey Blues come out at the start of the 2008 Varsity Hockey Match at Southgate Hockey Club in north London. Cambridge beat Oxford 3:1.
Gentlemen could learn the art of balancing on a Penny Farthing in the pioneer days of the University Bicycle Club. Founded in 1874, the club organised races against Oxford and London, this one in 1879.
The sports complex envisaged by the powers that be would place Cambridge at the very top of its field in the country in terms of sporting facilities. The current and prolonged absence of such a provision suggests to the wider world that Cambridge takes little interest in the well-rounded scholar, something that we know not to be true. The lack of truly competitive facilities to rival other elite establishments will ultimately only increase the rate of the ‘brain drain’ to the US and to other UK universities, a very real problem in today’s academic meat market. Perhaps it is this
272 / University Sport
The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race What is the Boat Race? The Boat Race is one, albeit the most prestigious, of a series of sporting events held each year between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, having their origins in a combination of the then primacy of the two universities and the growth of amateur sport in Victorian England. At root, therefore, the Boat Race is an adjunct to the primary academic purposes of the universities, especially since, at least thus far, neither university has expressed any interest in sports scholarships on the US model. Unlike any other Varsity sport the Boat Race remains a national, indeed international, phenomenon. This can be attributed to several disparate factors which combine in a unique combination of sporting excellence and national heritage, including the gladiatorial simplicity of a winner and a loser, the disproportionate effort for no reward (even for the successful crew) and the neutral venue of the river Thames as it winds through London: the Boat Race is a great London event. But sporting excellence is at the heart of the phenomenon; in an age where world class in whatever sport is constantly available, Boat Race crews must be able to demonstrate that they are top quality crews judged by the highest national and international standards. This is why the gap between college rowing and Varsity rowing will remain forever unbridgeable: the days when the best college crews
could claim to be of national let alone international standard ended more than 50 years ago. The first race was rowed in 1829 at Henley-on-Thames, the second in London in 1836. It was not until 1845 that the now traditional Putney to Mortlake course was first raced. Races have been held every year (except during the two world wars in the last century) since 1856. The current score (after the 2007 race) is 79 wins to Cambridge and 73 to Oxford, with one dead heat in 1877. The race record is held by the 1998 Cambridge crew and stands at 16 mins 19 seconds. For years, the Boat Race was run on a very informal basis by the London Representative of the two university clubs, himself an old Blue, with help from a few volunteers. The London Representative is now the Chief Executive of the Boat Race Company Limited, the management company which organizes the Boat Race. This development reflects the amount of time and effort required to stage what is one of the largest sporting events in the country. Sponsorship, which has been a part of the race since the 1970s, has helped offset the increasing costs enormously. What was once a private race is now a major public event, albeit with a private race still at the heart of it! Howard Jacobs (1971) is Chief Executive of the Boat Race Company Ltd.
Cambridge claim victory in the 150th Boat Race in 2004.
Gates Scholar Kris Coventry, who rowed at no.2 in the 150th Boat Race, in the Captain’s Room, the CUBC club room in the Goldie Boathouse, where the names of all CUBC crews are painted on wall panels.
CUBC and the Boat Race In the last 20 years the CUBC has metamorphosed from an amateur, student-run club to a professional centre of excellence, creating and attracting international-level athletes on a regular basis. Testament to the club’s strength is apparent in the composition of recent crews – of the 17 different athletes competing in the last three Blue Boats seven were Olympians, including an Olympic Champion and three World Champions. Within rowing circles the draw of the Boat Race is such that there is a significant annual influx of international calibre oarsmen keen to compete in this prestigious event. Reflecting the changing nature of the University, where postgraduate admissions now constitute a greater portion of the annual intake, the original domination of the British undergraduate has given way to a greater proportion of foreign postgraduates in the modern crews. For athletes the attraction of the race is twofold: its distinctive combination of tradition and high profile within the sporting world sets it apart from other rowing events, while the gruelling nature of the 4 ¼ mile course, over three times the length of Olympic races, makes it a challenge in itself. Though copied by universities in Britain and the US, the Oxford–Cambridge Boat Race is still universally recognised as one of the highlights of any career. Despite the hype surrounding the race, the CUBC remains true to its origins. Although it employs two full-time professional coaches and a boatman, the club is still run by the student President, elected internally and ratified by the college boat club captains. It also looks to the colleges to provide the majority of trialists at the start of every year
and strongly encourages its members to return to their college boat clubs for the May Bumps. There is no easy way into the two University crews. International and college oarsmen need to have academically qualified for their places at the University and must stay ahead of their studies while attending 11 training sessions a week, a commitment of some 32 hours, including weights sessions and around 200km on the water. The athletes are continually tested and assessed throughout the six-month training process, with the Blue Boat and Goldie (reserve) crews formed in February, around eight weeks before the race. The club exists for one purpose, to beat Oxford; to do so means racing at the limit of one’s stamina for 17 minutes alongside a crew of equally fit athletes. It is both an endurance event and a sprint as the crews try to get the vital boat length in front from which they can control the race. This is a high-pressure but gradual process, trying to move steadily away and holding form until the opposition breaks. To win is to justify the whole year’s sacrifice and create a bond between the athletes that is never forgotten; to lose is one of the worst possible experiences in sport. Regardless of the result, the commitment to the club and the race lasts a lifetime and every year the old Blues will get nervous around Easter, knowing that Oxford will occasionally win but saying the old CUBC prayer, ‘Lord, let it not be this year’. Kieran West (1995) rowed in the Blue Boat in 1999, 2001, 2006 and 2007. He was CUBC President in 2001. He won a gold medal in the Men’s Eight at the Sydney Olympics and the World Championship in the Coxed Fours in 2002. He is studying for a PhD at Pembroke College.
Running the University
Modern management in a medieval framework M ARTIN D AUNTON
hen a team of Japanese academics was appointed to advise their government on reform of their universities, it was natural for them to visit Cambridge. Their reasoning was impeccable: here was one of the world’s greatest universities, and it was obvious that its system of governance must be a model to follow. Logic soon gave way to puzzlement as we tried to explain how the University is run, until all was clear: the Senate House is a building and Regent House is people. They had every reason to be puzzled, for the governance of the University of Cambridge is entirely unlike any other university, corporation or charity. Critics argue that the success of Cambridge comes despite a system of governance that is castigated as medieval and sorely in need of modernising to allow swifter action in response to rapidly changing circumstances. To these critics, stronger executive power and managerial authority would allow greater effectiveness, a more efficient use of resources, and would free academics to teach and research. Defenders of the Cambridge system respond that a university cannot be run in the same way as a business corporation where success is easily measured in output or the bottom line. Success is much more intangible, depending on leading academics pushing the boundaries of knowledge by questioning received wisdom, and teaching students to be critical and precise, original and creative. Will they do this more effectively in a more managerial system, or by preserving the medieval sense of a university as a self-governing community of scholars? Universities depend on the commitment of the academics who work in them, on their freedom to think in new ways – and systems of governance should be judged by this measure of effectiveness. The logic of our Japanese visitors might be sound and the success of Cambridge over such a long period might after all arise from its unique way of running its affairs.
Opposite: The Esquire Bedells, of whom there are now two, carry silver maces presented to the University by the first Duke of Buckingham when accompanying the Vice-Chancellor at formal occasions, such as honorary degree ceremonies. The University Marshal carries a mahogany mace tipped with silver, which was originally made for the Yeoman Bedell, an office which was abolished in 1858. Right: Gradus ad Cantabrigiam, a dictionary of terms used at the University of Cambridge, published in 1807.
The issue facing Cambridge as it enters its ninth century is: how can the greatest possible efficiency in the use of scarce resources, entirely reasonably expected by the government, charities and benefactors, be combined with the greatest possible participation by academics whose enthusiasm, ideas and questioning intelligence are so vital to success? The Vice-Chancellor cannot be a chief executive of a business corporation telling everyone what to do; neither can academics act irresponsibly in their use of their constitutional power. At the heart of present debates is where exactly the balance should be drawn between efficiency and democratic self-rule. One analogy for the governance of Cambridge is Athenian or participatory democracy: all University officers and Fellows of colleges constitute Regent House to which any business that requires approval is submitted as a Grace. In most cases, this is a mere formality, though members of Regent House may raise items of concern at a ‘discussion’ held in Senate House, and a ballot may be called if requested by 25 members. The operation of Regent House is not without its critics: the rhetoric at discussions often falls below the standard of Demosthenes; larger strategic issues may be overlooked and attendance is frequently low. Eager reformers complain that the prospect of a discussion or ballot hinders much-needed change and provides an outlet for special pleading. As a result, Regent House seems irrelevant to many of its members so
Detail from Senate House Hill on Degree Day Morning, 1863, by Robert Farren. Recognisable in the crowd are Leslie Stephen, Thomas Geldart, Henry Fawcett and Henry Latham, all Fellows of Trinity Hall, where the painting hangs. One of the graduands has already received a wooden spoon for the worst pass in the Mathematics Tripos.
that participatory democracy becomes an illusion. Nevertheless, at their best the discussions are a safety valve and a way of raising genuine concerns, providing a sense of academic autonomy. The solution is not to abolish or trammel Regent House, but rather to ensure that more people know about the crucial issues of the University through green or white papers, and web-based discussions, so that Regent House can regain a real sense of involvement with the wider University. The participatory democracy of Regent House is complemented by the representative democracy of Council. Policies and proposals from the many committees and faculties of the University are considered by the Council and then presented as Reports and Graces to Regent House. The Council is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor who is no longer, as in the recent past, drawn in rotation from the heads of colleges for a short term of two years. Rather the vice-chancellorship is now a full-time post with a longer term of at least five but no more than seven years, offering a greater sense of continuity and professionalism. At present, the Council has 19 elected members of whom 16 are elected by Regent House. Those elected by Regent House are four from among the heads of colleges, four from among the professors and readers and eight from among the other members of Regent House. The students elect three of their number, of whom one must be a graduate student. Recently, a new category of external member has been introduced; there are currently two such members, nominated by the Council and appointed by Regent House. Here are two major topics of debate: should the Vice-Chancellor chair a body to which she reports, or should there be an independent chairman as in most organisations; and how many external members should sit on Council? The introduction of an independent chairman is more widely accepted than the recommendation of the Committee of University Chairmen that the majority of any governing body should be made up of external members – a proposition that collides with Regent House’s commitment to the model of a self-governing community of scholars. The recent report on ‘The Good Governance of Cambridge
Cambridge definitions from 1807 (see previous page).
University’ steered a cautious middle path, reflecting the difficulties encountered at Oxford where the attempt to increase the number of external members led to very public dissent. The report argued that a majority of external members would threaten a loss of internal confidence, and proposed that external membership should be increased to four in order to demonstrate to the outside world that the University is run in an efficient way. The change has recently been accepted, and it now remains to be seen whether further change will be required by outside pressures. Certainly, the existing Council will only work effectively if its members act in the general interests of the wider community by dealing with major strategic issues in a constructive way. Participatory and representative democracies are both in their ways excellent systems of government, offering a sense of autonomy and empowerment – always provided that members of the University engage in a responsible and constructive way and avoid destructive criticism. Of course, Cambridge is a collegiate university and the colleges are directly represented on the Council. In practice, the four heads of house include the chairman and secretary of the Colleges’ Committee, the assembly of all 31 heads of house which discusses issues of common concern. The Vice-Chancellor and other senior officers of the University attend the Colleges’ Committee, and the exchange of information and coordination of activities are now effective and constructive. These discussions are facilitated by the Colleges’ Standing Committee whose members include representatives of the Bursars’ and Senior Tutors’ Committees. The Standing Committee mutates into the University and Colleges Joint Committee with the addition of representatives of the University. The result is that the colleges and the University can reach a common understanding on matters such as fund-raising, admissions and teaching – as well as agreeing on how to handle the many external challenges faced by the University. Allegations that colleges abuse their independence to block sensible reforms are now misplaced. Although the colleges rightly remain competitive on the river and in academic league tables, rivalry is compatible with a co-operative pursuit of common goals.
Talent and temerity B ENEDICT N IGHTINGALE
ince Cambridge has produced no fewer than four of the five artistic directors who have so far run the National Theatre, and none of them had any formal training after they went down, there must be something right with the University’s undergraduate theatre. Since it has also produced two of the current batch of theatrical knights – and, again, the only two to have gone straight into the profession without a stopover at RADA or any acting academy – there must be something very right with the University’s student theatre. Peter Hall, who was at St Catharine’s 1950–3, went on to found the Royal Shakespeare Company before taking over from Laurence Olivier as the National’s supremo. Nicholas Hytner, at Trinity Hall 1974–7, is the latest of his successors on the South Bank. But if there was a golden age in Cambridge theatre it was between (roughly) 1957 and (roughly) 1962, when Trevor Nunn, Richard Eyre, Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi overlapped, along with Michael Pennington, Corin Redgrave, John Shrapnel, Miriam Margolyes and several others who have helped make British theatre the creative force it is now. Hytner thinks that a well-equipped theatre run and largely financed by undergraduates was a key factor. True, the University Players, the Mummers, the Marlowe Society and other groups have also staged their work in the Arts Theatre, the Corn Exchange and even Great St Mary’s Church; but it’s the Amateur Dramatic Club or ADC that has really mattered. That’s the theatre in which Peter Hall, following the example of his friends and contemporaries John Barton and Peter Wood, launched his career by directing a version of Anouilh’s Eurydice – and where just about every Cambridge Thespian, from John Bird to Tilda Swinton, has acted since. Though Pennington and others acknowledge the encouragement of George ‘Dadie’ Rylands, and Hytner was much helped by Graham Storey and Peter Holland, Cambridge dons seem often to have been unhelpful or positively hostile to undergraduate performers. I myself recall a Senior
Fellow at Magdalene bluntly declaring that ‘gentlemen don’t act’ and, in an academic atmosphere where drama was seen as literature only, the less snobbish tended to regard the theatre as a hindrance to serious study. Playing a long succession of major roles, including Anouilh’s Antigone and Giraudoux’s Ondine, didn’t of course prevent Margaret Drabble getting a starred first; but maybe she was a special case. No, what drove those undergraduate actors was a combination of opportunity (Pennington played 30 parts in three years before leaving to become a mainstay of the RSC) and a single-minded sense of purpose. Eyre, who was eventually to take over from Hall at the National, describes Cambridge actors of his generation as ‘cocky, immodest, self-regarding, ostentatious, vain and self-important’, with ‘intrigues, jealousies, stars and careers conceived on the lines of what were imagined to be the real thing’, and Pennington feels he and his contemporaries were ‘horrible little professionals before our time’. As Michael Frayn, who wrote a Footlights revue, once put it: ‘You’re never so famous as when you’re at Cambridge.’ But that yearning for fame, that quasi-professionalism meant that the able and ambitious left rich in experience. Flip through Varsity, reading reviews of Tim Brooke-Taylor’s Trigorin in The Seagull, or of David Frost’s Actor-Manager in Six Characters in Search of an Author, or of productions by John Tusa, Stephen Frears or the future principal of RADA, Nick Barter. You’ll be astonished by the range of work attempted: Miller, Williams, Betti, Wesker, Ayme, Camus,
Left: Façade of the ADC Theatre on Park Street. David Thomas
Right: Derek Jacobi rehearsing a Mummers production of Christopher Fry’s A Sleep of Prisoners with Michael Burrell and Richard Kay in Great St Mary’s directed by Waris Habibullah (now Hussein).
Student Drama Footlights D ANIEL M ORGENSTERN
he Cambridge Footlights: to some, a name synonymous with the crème de la crème of up-and-coming comedy talent; to others, the embodiment of all that’s wrong with the world and another example of why students shouldn’t be allowed to perform in public. As Scotland on Sunday put it in 1995 in one of their more vitriolic reviews: ‘These students, like most students, should shut up until they grow up…’ The renowned history of the Footlights Dramatic Club is perhaps the club’s greatest asset and perpetual curse. For the current student membership of Footlights, the opportunities and publicity afforded by the Footlights name are invaluable; yet, at the same time, trying to live up to the standards set by previous generations can be difficult – particularly when audiences are wont to compare current productions with the output of alumni who may have been working professionally for many years. Fortunately for me, my performing with Footlights never got further than a very brief appearance during a committee ‘Smoker’, when I was dragged onto stage to make up the numbers for a sketch, and I have therefore managed to avoid the unkind eye of the critics. Instead, my involvement in the club has been on the producing and financial side, trying to bring some order to areas of the club’s activity that have traditionally been ignored by a club dominated – as one may argue it should be – by writer-performers. It has been an eye-opening experience seeing several generations of students coming through the club and then finding their way into the professional world (be that in comedy or in management consultancy).
Harry Porter, Senior Treasurer and Archivist of Footlights for 40 years.
Revue programmes from 1955,1963 and 1978.
Someone who was witness to more generations than most was Dr Harry Porter, who first became Footlights Senior Treasurer in 1962. After retiring from this role, supposedly after VAT inspectors investigating the club raided his house, Dr Porter became Senior Archivist, liberating the club’s archives from the University Library and meticulously cataloguing and expanding them in the basement of his house. This was a role that Dr Porter held until his death in 2003, with many generations of Footlights members benefiting from his discreet influence and the opportunity to explore the club’s history and previous creative output – usually whilst sitting in a small cold basement room with a cup of tea. Footlights proudly traces its beginnings all the way back to 1883 and an infamous cricket match at the Fulbourn Pauper Lunatic, but it is really over the last 50 years that the club has made its name, producing a stream of influential writers and performers – which Footlights never fails to mention in its publicity materials. In the 1950s, Julian Slade and Jonathan Miller found their feet on the Footlights stage, although it is telling that even then the critics were liable to be unkind. On the 1955 production, Between The Lines, the Daily Sketch asked: ‘What has happened to the Footlights who once fed new ideas and new style to the West End stage? … Jonathan Miller wants to be a chemist and not a theatrical cult. I back his judgement.’ The 1960s was one of the club’s most successful periods with many Footlights performers of the time going on to be household names. Peter Cook, Eleanor Bron, David Frost, John Cleese, Graham Chapman,
Footlights revue, Pop Goes Mrs Jessop, with Peter Cook (centre) and David Frost (third from right), 1960.
Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie, Miriam Margolyes, Eric Idle, Germaine Greer, Julie Covington and Clive James all performed with Footlights and their names have graced Footlights programmes and press releases ever since. The 1963 show Cambridge Circus (originally entitled A Clump of Plinths) even transferred to London, running for three months at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue before transferring, rather bizarrely, to New Zealand and then, less bizarrely but more lucratively, to Broadway. Again, the critics were not always kind, inevitably comparing the current Footlights crop unfavourably with their predecessors. The Daily Mail asked: ‘Have they got a new Jonathan Miller among them? I may as well get the answer over right away. No.’ The 1970s saw a new batch of future celebrities: Clive Anderson, Griff Rhys Jones, Rory McGrath and Douglas Adams, who directed the 1976 revue A Kick in the Stalls. This was also the period when the club began regularly to tour its May Week revue during the summer holiday, the focus being a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Today Footlights remains probably the only student group to
Right: The Footlights summer show of 1962 joined forces with the Cambridge Theatre Company in a tour to the Edinburgh Festival, both productions directed by Trevor Nunn (seated at front with Marion McNaughton). Wellknown Footlights members involved included Graham Chapman (with pipe), Tim Brooke-Taylor, John Cleese, Hugh McDonald, Ian (now Lord) Lang and Tony Hendra. The Footlights show was called Double Take, while the CTC production was Ibsen’s Brand.
Left: The Cellar Tapes, 1981.
Inspiration, refuge and recreation C HRISTOPHER H OGWOOD
he sight of the choristers of King’s College processing from the Chapel after singing an evening service or anthem by Orlando Gibbons always carries (for me, at least) an extra historical frisson, realising that 400 years earlier Gibbons himself at the age of 13 had been one of those choristers and had sung in this very same building (he was listed 1596–9). The presence of the past used to strike many an undergraduate of my generation in their final summer term while listening to the fading strains of ‘Sweet Suffolk Owl’ or ‘The Silver Swan’ as the punts of the Madrigal Society (founded 1928, regrettably dissolved 1968) disappeared into the distance downriver. It still grips millions each year worldwide who tune in to the broadcast service of Nine Lessons and Carols, now entering its second century. Continuity is implicit in this frisson, but the atmosphere within the institution diverges increasingly from the pressures of the world outside, where the arts become more a refuge, less a recreation. Chapel and chapel choirs remain the most permanent feature of Cambridge’s active music-making, in the process training many later professional voices, organ scholars and periodically producing closeharmony groups hoping to hit it as rich as the King’s Singers. A second strand of continuity is the University’s recognition of composition and living composers. I remember Britten, Tippett and Lutoslawski receiving their honorary doctorates, just as earlier members of the University might have remembered Dvorák, Tchaikovsky, Saint-Saens or Ravel, their careers rotundly summarised in a Latin oration. The post of Professor of Music was created in 1684 when Charles II demanded that Nicholas Staggins, his Master of Music, be awarded a MusD; the University retaliated by appointing him ‘public professor’ without salary. Since then the majority of appointments have also been composers (Maurice Greene, Thomas Walmisley, William Sterndale Bennet, Charles Villiers Stanford and, most recently, Alexander Goehr). This tradition was first broken in 1926 by the musicologist E.J. Dent and later by Thurston Dart (1962), both of whom overflowed academic barriers and busied themselves in ‘extra-mural’ events: Dent with the ISCM and opera (at the same time presiding in 1926 over the first Music School ‘since the foundation of the University’), Thurston Dart with editing early music, international performance and recording.
In the first years it was not obligatory for the Professor of Music to be resident in the University. Even Stanford, who as organist of Trinity had worked so hard to encourage student performances, later fell out with the authorities and took to giving his harmony classes at the station before making the speediest possible return to London. Originally there had been no formal tuition, and a candidate for the MusB came to Cambridge solely to present his composition (an ‘exercise’), and usually paid for its performance as well. Until full-time music courses were initiated as recently as 1947, students could only come to music after several preparatory years in another discipline. Vaughan Williams (Trinity, 1892–4) had to read history before he could proceed to music. The Music Faculty now offers studies in history, analysis and compositional techniques as a springboard for diversifying into fields such as performance practice, early music, film music, jazz, the
Above: A concert at Christ’s in 1767 showing the virtuoso Georg Noëlli playing the pantaleon with local professionals. Opposite: Verdi’s Requiem in King’s College Chapel, January 2008. Under the direction of Stephen Cleobury, choral scholars from six college choirs joined with CUMS 1 to perform the monumental work for the first time in the society’s 165-year history.
Cambridge and the World
A NNE L ONSDALE
ambridge belongs to the 900-year-old tradition of European universities. The very structure of the University indicates, from its outset, the presence of students from different ‘nations’, while colleges often began with their own regional affiliations. Cambridge was never just an East Anglian institution, but always embodied the range of ‘international’ expectations of its age. In the past 50 years, this European tradition has revived with the creation of the European Union and, since 1976, Europe has played an increasingly active role in Higher Education. Though Cambridge has not embraced new European exchange programmes wholeheartedly, the University did join one of the earliest European university networks, the Coimbra Group, in 1991, five years after Oxford, and the Cambridge European Trust followed in 1995. Today, ERASMUS students do travel to and from Cambridge in handpicked numbers, but it is hard to persuade British students that it is at least as rewarding to study abroad as to hitchhike to Timbuktu. The ‘year abroad’ has long been standard practice in Modern Languages and Oriental Studies but only one other Cambridge degree has a required period of study in a university abroad, the MPhil in Chinese Studies, with equal periods in Cambridge and Beijing Universities. Links with Chinese universities, a major part of the University’s international strategy, began under Deng Xiaoping from 1982, were cooled by the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989, and have grown at an astonishing pace since the mid-1990s. Of all students registered in 2007 the Chinese numbered 478, outstripping the US contingent of 435, while special leadership training programmes have been undertaken for top officials and business executives from China. Chinese are well represented, too, among post-doctoral scholars and academic staff, especially in the sciences, and faculties and departments have their own relationships with
Right: Duke Zaize, grandson of the Jiaqing Chinese emperor, visits Cambridge to receive an honorary degree in May 1906. He is accompanied by the Vice-Chancellor, Henry Montagu Butler. Opposite: A Cambridge-inspired view of the world, 1681. The ‘English globe’, now in the Whipple Museum, was designed by the Earl of Castlemaine, who developed his interest in mathematics and astronomy while an undergraduate at King’s. Based on the Ptolemaic system, the earth is stable and cannot be moved, while the original pedestal contained a celestial planisphere which could be rotated to show the movement of the stars. It was made by Joseph Moxon.
opposite numbers in most leading universities in China. It is exciting to see the challenges which Indian students and Indian universities are now posing their Chinese colleagues. The University prefers to see its contacts develop, as mutually advantageous, easily sustainable research ties at departmental level, rather than the fashionable inter-university agreements between Rectors and Presidents which cannot guarantee any worthwhile outcome, particularly in Cambridge, where very independent scientists and scholars prefer to choose research partners. Indeed, Cambridge had until recently only five ‘institutional’ links: Beijing University and Tsinghua in China, Tokyo and Kyoto Universities in Japan (all dating back to the 20th century), and the creation in 2000, with MIT, of the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), the brainchild of Gordon Brown when Chancellor of the Exchequer. CMI was established ‘to explore how academics, industrialists and educators might work together to stimulate competitiveness, productivity and entrepreneurship’. It is supported by the UK government, with matching industrial and commercial sponsors, its scale and complexity depending on significant resources: some £65 million over the last six years. Most University collaborations barely cover their costs, leaving little leeway for the exploration of shared research and joint courses which CMI has promoted. Over the last ten years, as fashions shift from ‘internationalisation’ to ‘globalisation’, other approaches have come thick and fast, with requests to establish branches both real and ‘virtual’, even whole e-universities, overseas and to create joint programmes in almost every continent. Since
‘Remaining ferociously engaged’ A LISON R ICHARD ,V ICE -C HANCELLOR
he University does not see far into the future. It flourishes by holding fast to certain values, while helping shape and adapting to changes in the world around it. Such is my view of the simultaneous timelessness and timeliness of University life. It leaves me sceptical of the value of visionary statements about the Cambridge of the future. So what should be the subject matter of my Epilogue, on this momentous occasion in the life of a great university? I decided to start with the Reporter – the University’s official record – as it appeared a century ago. How do the preoccupations of those times reflect or depart from our own? Were any of the transformational changes that have since swept Cambridge anticipated then? Are there insights into our future to be gained from contemplating the past? It turned out to be an instructive exercise, and also reinforced my view of the way universities persist, change and flourish. In this essay, I will certainly make a brief foray into the future, but I will take as my point of departure what I have learned from reading about the past. In 1909 King Edward VII was still alive but an era was ending. A decade later, there would be few young men of means left alive to apply to Cambridge or Oxford, and both universities would start to run up deficits. The government of the day stepped in to plug the hole and the plug never went away. After the Second World War, the funding of Higher Education by government was transformed from a stop-gap measure into a positive political commitment. Today, the financing and freedoms of Higher Education are once again matters of lively debate. That is but one of several threads in the history of the last century not foreseen by our predecessors – and not foreseeable. Indeed, they seem to have indulged little in reflections on the past or the future. I found no mention at all of 1909 as a centenary year for the University in the pages of the Reporter for that year, and I wonder if they were less willing than we are to overlook uncertainties about the date of the University’s foundation. The only anniversaries celebrated were the centenary of Charles Darwin’s birth, coupled with the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. Overwhelmingly, discussions in 1909 focused on the particularities of the present and immediate future. In his address to the Senate on 1 October 1909, the Vice-Chancellor spoke mostly of deaths and
departures, philanthropic gifts received, and the importance of not building ‘without laying aside a good proportion of the money for the purposes of upkeep’. About a book urging internal reform just published by the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor noted: ‘Perhaps to us one of the most interesting things in that book was the revelation how much more urgent the need of reforms is at Oxford than at Cambridge.’ Civility and fairness prevailed, however, and he concluded by urging Cambridge not to tarry with its own reforms. The pages of the Reporter echoed and amplified the ViceChancellor’s preoccupations, with reports on gift stewardship, the purpose and value of scholarships, debates about academic standards, the introduction of new subjects, and the place of languages (including English) in the curriculum. Some entries read as amusing period pieces, like the tussle over the installation of electric lighting in the Library. But alongside them are reports with a distinct ring of the
1642 sun and moon dial in Queens’ Old Court. Opposite: Senate House Passage, Degree Day, 2008.
330 / Final Word
‘Remaining ferociously engaged’ / 331
present, exhibiting care and thought with respect to academic matters, accompanied by passionate and occasionally vituperative discussion. From the perspective of 2009, some of the issues discussed really mattered, and others just seemed to matter at the time. The quality of intelligent and stubborn attentiveness, notwithstanding a certain accompanying grand inefficiency, persists in Cambridge to this day – to its great benefit. Whatever the resonances with the past, Cambridge in 2009 is a university transformed. The massively expanded role of women is one such transformation. Today there are as many women undergraduates as men, they make up a growing proportion of Cambridge’s 6,000 or so graduate students – there were no graduate students at all, as we know them, a century ago – and they are present in increasing numbers among our post-doctoral and academic staff. Other changes are equally profound. The explosive growth of science has transformed the academic and physical landscape. This has enhanced the University’s stature and impact, established the region as an international centre of innovation, and helped dissolve the ‘town–gown’ divide. Within collegiate Cambridge, 13 colleges have been founded or achieved full collegiate status since 1909. Responsive to growth in the size and the diversity of the student body, they have created new ways of imagining Cambridge colleges. The century has seen incremental changes in Cambridge’s organisational arrangements, without losing the idea of the University as a community of scholars and students. In just the last 30 years, the University’s accountability to government has increased substantially, even as the proportion of direct public funding has declined. For much of its history, Cambridge was very exclusive, one of a small handful of universities of significance in the world. For 250 years, it rode on the coat-tails of Empire. Exclusivity and Empire both crumbled during the last century. The contribution of universities to society is now widely recognised, and that has fostered rapid growth in their number. Today, we compete and co-operate with universities all over the world. And we are successful, considered among the finest universities in the world. But what about the future? National decisions assuredly have a critical bearing on Cambridge’s future. The high quality of this country’s splendid and diverse university system is clear, and the excellence of Cambridge is integral to the system as a whole. British society and successive British governments have to muster the will to sustain universities, and to allow them greater independence. The alternative is steady decline of the system in the face of intense global competition. Cambridge contributes mightily to the UK’s strength in Higher Education, but it also, importantly, benefits greatly. We have a strong interest in assuring not simply the future of our own institution, but the continued vitality of the system as a whole. Overleaf: High-resolution image of Cambridge kindly supplied by The GeoInformation Group. © The GeoInformation Group. All rights reserved.
Much that lies ahead transcends national borders, however. Innovations in technology are making international travel and global communication faster and easier than ever before. Information flows in a torrent. The world’s population continues to grow, and the natural resources that support human life and well-being are used unsustainably. An assault on the health of the planet is under way, with grave potential for human conflict in its wake. These global and societal transformations and challenges are already driving change at Cambridge – in teaching and learning, the composition of our staff and student bodies, and the configuration of research activities and priorities. The changes come in ways that are evident, and ways that we see dimly yet, if at all. I am certain that the past has little to offer by way of guidance about the course of future change here. But it does offer reassurance, and perhaps one lesson. The reassurance is that our predecessors did not anticipate the great changes of the 20th century, and yet modern Cambridge flourishes, timeless and timely. The lesson, I submit, is that the Cambridge community must find ways of remaining ferociously engaged and yet more fleet of foot in a rapidly changing world. If we can do that – and we will – Cambridge will surely keep its flags flying far into the future. Professor Alison Richard graduated from Newnham in 1969 before gaining a PhD at the University of London. She taught anthropology at Yale, chairing the department from 1986 to 1990, and was Provost from 1994. In 2003 she became the first female Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge since the post became executive. She is a Fellow of Newnham College.